HIGH POINT — While recent industry security breaches have been resolved, the compromises to internal systems was a lesson in how susceptible companies are to threats that can shut down their ability to service customers, particularly at a time when demand is at record highs.
Samson Marketing Group and Century Furniture were among the industry resources whose systems were compromised between late October and early November.
The Samson Marketing operational breach occurred early in the morning of Oct. 23. This breach affected Universal Furniture, Legacy Classic Furniture, LC Kids and Baker Furniture.
“Our tech teams moved quickly to assess what happened, and we quickly communicated with our customer base,” said Neil MacKenzie, director of marketing at Universal Furniture. “It impacted our ability to managing everything,” he added of task ranging from shipping to answering the phones.
He said the breach amounted to a two-week disruption of normal business activity and required a round-the-clock effort from the tech team — as well as outside assistance from Dell — to address the breach.
And while the company was able to take orders during this time, the orders couldn’t be processed, meaning that the company could not look up inventory or ship product.
“There was not an ability to ship during this two-week period,” MacKenzie said. “The ability for the system to generate labeling was not accessible during this time.”
MacKenzie said that no customer information was compromised due to the operational breach, which ended around Nov. 10.
“Nothing was put in a compromised situation,” he said. “It was more of an operational lockdown of being able to (not) answer the phone, process orders or get product to customers.”
Century Furniture experienced its own breach starting the last weekend in October. On its Facebook page on Sunday, Nov. 1, it alerted customers of a malware intrusion that it said caused a temporary disruption to its ability to communicate via email, host its websites and access certain database resources.
Like Universal, it said that no sensitive customer information was impacted due to the intrusion. The company also noted that its core SAP database was not impacted.
However, to address the challenge, it said, it had to take down its network, which includes most of its communications systems.
In a post a few days later, it said that while it was still able to manufacture product, orders could be delayed as it was not able to process those orders for shipping.
“While our websites and communication systems remain down, our IT team has done heroic work in partnership with our production teams to help us minimize the disruption to our factories,” CEO Alex Shuford III wrote in a post about two days later. “We have continued to craft furniture and have restored shipping. We expect in a matter of days to have our websites and our email also restored.”
By Nov. 10, the company said its systems were back up and running thanks to the diligent efforts of its IT team.
“Also, with thanks to our operations team, we were also able to run our factories all last week and minimize any lost production time,” Shuford added, noting that the company also was able to begin entering orders again on Sunday, Nov. 8.
“We appreciate your continued understanding as we get up to full speed,” he wrote. “We are committed to working as quickly as possible to process your orders and provide information. Thank you again for your patience and your business. We are proud to produce and service your orders.”
Shuford was not immediately available for further comment.
Like Century, Baker Furniture was able to manufacturer but not process orders during the Samson operational breach.
“Luckily, we have enough of a backlog where we could keep making it. We just couldn’t ship it,” said Mike Jolly, president of Baker. “Once it was clear we were able to start shipping again, we started to play catch up. October was a short month because we couldn’t ship, but in November, we are shipping hard.”
He expects the company to be able to catch up with getting orders shipped out by the first or second week in December.
During the operational breach, the company also was able to continue receiving, staging and inspecting imported goods. It just wasn’t able to put them in inventory until the system came back on line. Once that occurred, it began to process orders for and ship those goods, too.
MacKenzie, the head of marketing for Universal, said that the company did not have to replace employee equipment. Instead, it was able to address the issue with the installation of new software.
“Everyone on a PC came in safely to have some software installed,” he said “There were no replacement needs, just setting up an extra level of security.”
He said the company continues to investigate the issue in order to better understand the breach and take steps to prevent it from happening again.
“It is not an ideal situation, as others in the industry have experienced of late,” he said, noting that other industries have face similar operational breaches. “It certainly is a fluid landscape when it comes to things like this and is complicated to say the least. Many employees also are remote so that adds another layer of complexity.”
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