Warwick business owner’s warning after cyber attack blackmail

Kettell Video Productions owner Stuart Kettell warned other businesses to back up files after cyber criminals held him to ransom. Photo: West Midlands Police NNL-170413-120040001
Kettell Video Productions owner Stuart Kettell warned other businesses to back up files after cyber criminals held him to ransom. Photo: West Midlands Police NNL-170413-120040001

A Warwick company’s managing director is warning other businesses to protect themselves from cyber criminals after being held to ransom.

Kettell Video Productions was targeted by tech scammers who infected its IT systems with viruses before demanding £1,000 in online currency Bitcoins or the files would be permanently deleted.

Stuart Kettell with a member of West Midlands Police's cybercrime team. Photo: West Midlands Police NNL-170413-120027001

Stuart Kettell with a member of West Midlands Police's cybercrime team. Photo: West Midlands Police NNL-170413-120027001

Luckily, owner Stuart Kettell routinely backs up all his company’s systems so nothing was lost but he warned others to do the same to avoid disaster.

“It was scary: I had no idea about cyber-attacks before and really didn’t know what to do,” he said.

“Critical files, including images and videos for clients, were wiped out along with a lifetime of personal memories.

“The affected files were lost for good – the only way to recover them was with the key code held by the blackmailer – but luckily I back-up everything to an external data cartridge.

“In the end it was more an inconvenience…but it could have threatened the business.

“I would strongly urge all business owners to back-up their essential files.”

Mr Kettell acted quickly when he realised the audio-visual specialists in Arlescote Close were under attack by the web sharks in December, 2015.

“I noticed all my photos, videos and pdf files ghosting to white with a new filename… it attacked my desktop first then it wormed its way into folders one file at a time every few seconds,” he said.

“I’ve no idea how the malware was introduced as we use software that’s designed to prevent against such attacks.

“And the demand for payment seemed very professional: I was given links where I could buy Bitcoins and even offered the chance to decrypt one file for free.

“I unplugged my computer, isolated it from the internet, and ran some anti-malware software to stop the virus spreading further.”

Latest figures from the Crime Survey for England & Wales estimated there were 1.3m computer virus offences and 667,000 hacking related offences committed in the year ending September 2016.

Sergeant Gary Sirrell from the cybercrime team at West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit said commercial web attacks are increasingly being committed against smaller firms and not big multi-nationals.

“Small and medium sized companies are easier targets: they often don’t have the resources or expertise to protect against cyberattacks,” he said.

“And if they are targeted, the impact can be devastating.

“But there are steps business owners can take to mitigate the risk.

“A really effective tactic involves ‘layering’ defences to include a firewall, anti-malware software, staff training and regular re-training) around phishing email awareness, and finally to plug any holes in your defences by updating software patches and updates in a timely manner.

“By exercising good cyber hygiene, and having a strong backup policy, Stuart avoided the dilemma of whether to see his business significantly damaged, or to have to hand over a ransom to organised crime gangs to get his data unlocked.

“If more businesses in the West Midlands proactively took such steps there would be significantly fewer crimes victims.”

For more help and advice about cyber crime visit www.getsafeonline.org and www.cyberaware.gov.uk.