Shop Talk

Cybersecurity proves to be a necessity for owner of Durham’s Cocoa Cinnamon

I could tell that Leon Grodski de Barrera was skeptical when I told him that my list of three things small-business owners should watch in 2015 included cybersecurity.

Why would hackers be interested in the likes of his and his wife’s Durham coffee shop Cocoa Cinnamon, he asked, versus larger companies, such as recent high-profile, big company victims, such as Target, Home Depot and Sony?

Everything I was reading said that all business owners should be ensuring that they are updating their programs and protecting their systems because 97 percent of companies would be breached.

Then I got an email from Grodski de Barrera.

“It’s funny,” he wrote. “Someone tried to hack our site, pretty soon after we spoke.”

On Jan. 8 at 4:32 a.m., Grodski de Barrera received an email stating that someone was trying to log into the site using “admin” and “jesuschrist” for the password, he said.

The security alert email from Cocoa Cinnamon’s server described the incident as a brute force attack on the company’s website.

“They are like auto-sign-in bots trying to sign in to your website” by plugging in various word combinations, he said.

Those combinations ranged from anything with Cocoa Cinnamon’s name and another word to Jesus Christ “to all sort of different words,” he said.

Grodski de Barrera turned to a friend in the neighborhood who helped him to take some steps to secure the website.

Grodski de Barrera was able to update the WordPress-based site plug-ins and added free security options available from WordPress. They also purchased website security service SiteLock.

“That is how I found out the bots were constantly trying to sign in,” he said. “I get four notifications a day saying somebody tried to sign in to your website.”

That situation is actually quite common, said Craig Petronella, president of Petronella Technology Group in Raleigh.

There are black market programs that search for open ports or doors in a network of Internet Protocol addresses, Petronella said.

When an open port is found, it will run other tools and analysis to figure out what versions of software they are using and search for related vulnerabilities, such as plug-ins that were updated.

“A bot is basically a computer program that is set to run at a certain level of frequency, and it keeps digging on it all day long,” he said.

While Cocoa Cinnamon has never been hacked, Grodski de Barrera has had his personal account breached and the screen just kind of went blank, he said.

That is something that he now knows he doesn’t want to happen to his company website, which he now understands is vulnerable.

“One of those things, you definitely value it more when it is not a given,” he said.