Hard Times Cafe in Rockville temporarily shuts down after being hit by ransomware

- Hard Times Cafe in Rockville is indeed in the middle of some hard times.

The restaurant has been closed since last weekend because its computer system has been taken hostage by online pirates with ransomware.

Since that system also controls its payment system, co-owner Bob Howard said he had no other choice but to close down and protect his customers.

It all started when they fired up their computers Sunday morning and a message popped up demanding them to pay up.

“We had been compromised by something known as ransomware, where they basically encrypt all your files and basically close your computer system so it can’t operate,” he said.

Howard had two choices – pay $10,000 in Bitcoin to release the computer files and unfreeze the system or to close down.

He refused to pay. He decided to pay a computer team to replace all of its computers. He also contacted the FBI who said this happens more than you think.

The co-owner said this is the only Hard Times restaurant with this problem. There are eleven other Hard Times Cafes in the D.C. region.

Howard is speaking out because he wants people to know this can happen and it is not uncommon.

He does not believe any credit card information was taken because he said it is not stored.

Howard said he will not reopen until the computer system is safe for customers to use their credit cards without concern.

The Rockville location has about three dozen full and part-time employees, who have gone without income since the restaurant closed. Howard believes insurance will cover most of the costs to replace software and hardware.

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