Real estate business owner Robyn Willis falls victim to scam ASIC registration

Lucky escape: Robyn Willis has emerged from a cyber attack with data relatively intact, but other victims may not be so lucky.

Lucky escape: Robyn Willis has emerged from a cyber attack with data relatively intact, but other victims may not be so lucky.

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Real estate business owner Robyn Willis has emerged from a devastating computer virus attack with few losses thanks to being ‘coincidentally lucky’, but she’s warning that others may not be so fortunate.

It all started innocently enough when she received an email purportedly from ASIC advising that her business registration was due for renewal which, in fact, it was. Something must have tweaked her suspicions, though, as she compared this letter to the one she received for the previous renewal 12 months earlier and it looked legitimate.

Moving through the renewal process she clicked on the provided link several times without getting a response. Being busy with other matters, she decided to return later to investigate the problem and finalise the renewal.

For the next 24 hours, unbeknownst to Mrs Willis and her staff, the virus was working its way through the office network locking up files. Mrs Willis only become aware there was an issue when she was notified by her bank that there had been some interference with the files the business uses for online banking.

This happened around the same time a staff member returned from lunch to discover a ransom note displayed on her computer screen, demanding payment in exchange for a code to unlock the files.

“It took 24 hours exactly,” Mrs Willis said.

She said computer users might be doing the right thing and backing up each day, but could inadvertently back up corrupt files over the top of unaffected day-old files given the time lag before being aware of the problem.

“We were fortunate that we had backups and, coincidentally, had recently replaced our hard drives,” she said.

We were fortunate that we had backups and, coincidentally, had recently replaced our hard drives - Robyn Willis

Data on the replaced drives was retrievable, and Mrs Willis backs up some data to a memory stick for off-site work. Also the virus hadn’t quite worked its way through to the last computer on the office network, so the losses were minimal.

A business could lose all its computer-based data and Mrs Willis said she doesn’t want to see that happen to another business owner.

She’s been advised to hover the computer mouse over embedded hyperlinks to display the address of where the link is taking you.

“And I will be from now on,” she said.

“Don’t just immediately click on links, even if they look legit.

“Lesson learned.”

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