Company held hostage by ransomware shuts down, tells 300 employees to find new jobs

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

Company held hostage by ransomware shuts down, tells 300 employees to find new jobs
It wasn’t a case of “Happy Holidays” for the employees of an Arkansas-based telemarketing firm after they were told to find new jobs just before Christmas.

Sherwood-based The Heritage Company was hit a ransomware attack in October 2019, and – according to a letter sent to staff by the CEO – efforts to repair the damage had been unsuccessful.

Part of the letter to employees reads:

Dear Employees of The Heritage Company,

I know that you are all angry, confused, and hurt by the recent turn of events. Please know that I am just as devastated as you all are, especially that we had to do this at this particular time of year.

Please know that we would have NEVER gone to this extreme if we were not forced to. Now is the time to be honest and open about what is REALLY happening so that all of you know the truth, directly from me, especially since some of you have incorrect information and the spreading of untruths thru social media is damaging us further.

Unfortunately, approximately two months ago our Heritage servers were attacked by malicious software that basically “held us hostage for ransom” and we were forced to pay the crooks to get the “key” just to get our systems back up and running. Since then, IT has been doing everything they can to bring all our systems back up, but they still have quite a long way to go. Also, since then, I have been doing my utmost best to keep our doors open, even going as far as paying your wages from my own money to keep us going until we could recoup what we lost due to the cyber attack.

I know how confusing this must be, especially after we just gave away 7 cruises just this week, but again, that was money that I spent out of my own personal money to give you the best Christmas gift I possibly could, but that was before our systems were hacked. Afterwards I didn’t want to disappoint everyone by taking them back. We started the Prizes and Bingo the first of November when again I was being told the systems would be fixed that week.

What we hope is just a temporary setback is an opportunity for IT to continue their work to bring our systems back and for leadership to restructure different areas in the company in an attempt to recoup our losses which have been hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It is extremely important right now that we all keep the faith and hope alive that The Heritage Company can and will come back from this setback. It is also important that we all keep to the facts and keep calm. And so, I ask that you please share this with the employees who may not be on this page or may not have Facebook. To share this out of the group, you will need to copy the text of this post and share it as your own status.

It certainly must have come as a shock to employees at the firm which has been operating for 60 years, and claims to be “the most experienced professional tele-fundraiser in the nation.”

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Employees were told to ring the company’s weather line on January 2 to receive an update on the firm’s fortunes, and whether it was likely that they might be able to return to their jobs.

However, what staff received was a message offering them best wishes in their job hunt:

Hello Team Heritage.

We have been working diligently over the past two weeks to reorganize in an effort to recover from the cyber incident. Though we have made progress, there is still much work to be done. With that in mind, we do not prevent you from searching for other employment. Please take care of yourselves, your loved ones, and have a Happy New Year.

It doesn’t sound too promising does it?

It would be easy to say that it wasn’t ransomware which brought about the apparent demise of The Heritage Company, but instead a lack of secure backups and a resilient disaster recovery plan.

A ransomware attack should never be enough to kill off your company.

But, as we all know, they’re far from the first company to find themselves lacking in the wake of a ransomware attack.

The very last people at fault are the hundreds of telemarketing staff who have found themselves facing an uncertain future as they unexpectedly find themselves searching for a new job for some financial security.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

2 comments on “Company held hostage by ransomware shuts down, tells 300 employees to find new jobs”

  1. Jack Mehoff

    Clickbait. The company is working to restore systems.

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to Jack Mehoff

      …and has been since October.

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