Hard Times Cafe in Rockville hit with ransomware

UPDATE: Hard Times Cafe reopened Saturday at 11:30 a.m. after a ‘ransomware’ cyber attack last week.

WASHINGTON — The Rockville location of Hard Times Cafe has been closed since last weekend, after its point of sale and back office computer systems were infected with ransomware.

Co-owner Bob Howard wants his patrons to know they are working hard to reopen and hope to be back up and running by Friday night or Saturday.

Managers began noticing system problems Saturday night. When the restaurant reopened Sunday, the staff could not access any files and was greeted with a message demanding $10,000, paid by Bitcoin, to release encrypted files.

“The FBI tells us they can’t keep up with ransomware cases,” Howard says. “The advice is either pay the ransom or shut down your entire systems and rebuild from scratch. And that’s what we’re doing.”

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

Couldn’t the wait staff and kitchen staff just revert to old fashioned paper pads and pencils?

“I could, but my staff couldn’t,” Howard jokes. “They’re lost if they have to put their phones down.”

Howard co-owns the Rockville location with business partner Scott Roth. The Rockville Hard Times has been in business for 31 years.

There are 11 other Hard Times Cafes in the D.C. region. Locations in Germantown and Bethesda recently closed.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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