In a textbook illustration of a new online threat for restaurants, a chain outlet in Rockville, Md., was closed for a week by hackers who locked down the establishment’s computer network and demanded a $10,000 ransom to unfreeze it.
The hijacking left the Hard Times Cafe without its computer files and POS system from Sunday through Saturday, according to local media reports. Management apparently did not pay the ransom, but had to search for a work-around. It chose to remain closed until the seizure could be reversed.
Employees who opened the restaurant on Sunday, March 20, said they were unable to access files. A message delivered via the computer system said the files and functions would remain frozen until they were paid $10,000 in Bitcoin, a virtual currency.
The system had been infected with what’s known as ransomware, or programming that allows online pirates to seize control of the machine from a remote location. Management said it was comfortable by Friday with restarting the system without fears of customer or employee information being swiped.