CARTERVILLE — Steve Falat wants everyone to know it can happen to them.
Falat, general manager/market manager for River Radio of Southern Illinois, went on the air at 7 a.m. Friday to announce that the radio group, which broadcasts the popular CIL-FM, Z100 and WJPF radio stations, had been hacked.
Falat told The Southern on Friday that in the early hours Thursday morning, the radio group got a message.
“All of your files have been encrypted due to a security problem with your PC,” Falat recalled the message saying.
He also said the group behind the message told the station that for payment in Bitcoin, a decentralized digital currency, they would receive the software needed to de-encrypt the station's files. The price depended on how fast they acted.
Falat said the encryption was found in the stations’ audio file system. He said he does not believe any of the files themselves have been compromised, but have simply been rendered useless by the broadcasters. He said no one ever took control of the stations themselves.
Falat said River Radio has been in touch with the FBI.
“The FBI did say that this is becoming an all too common event,” Falat said. He said agents did recognize some of the language and email addresses used from other, similar cases.
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There is an irony, if not a bitter irony, to the story though. Falat said talks had started with River Radio and its other Max Media Radio sister stations about this exact thing and he said a plan was starting to come together about how to be protected.
Prior to this, he said River Radio thought it had done what it needed to in order to safeguard files.
“We thought we were in good shape,” he said.
However, he now realizes that the stations had been preparing for a hardware malfunction, not an actual attack.
One of the bigger recommendations he said he has received is to back up all files to a cloud service as well as physical drives on site. This adds an extra layer of protection that might be outside a hacker's grasp.
“We’re not looking for sympathy,” he said, adding that he just wants other people to learn from what happened to them.
“Yes it can happen in small (town) America,” he said. “We found out the hard way."