Ballard NW Senior Center attacked by ransomware ahead of annual fundraiser

SEATTLE — The Ballard Northwest Senior Center found itself in the bull's-eye of ransomware attack, with its server wiped just weeks before their biggest fundraiser of the year.

The senior center says it doesn’t know if it was targeted, or if the ransomware attack hit them at random, but now it’s struggling to get back on its feet.

“We turned on our computers and nothing was there. Nothing. Everything was gone,” said Carlye Teel, executive director of the Ballard Northwest Senior Center.

“I couldn't open any of my folders, nothing. The computer was just locked out,” said Larry Helms, a program coordinator there.

The center quickly found out someone attacked them with ransomware, encrypting all their files, holding the data hostage.

“They take everything and they offer to give it back to you for money,” Teel said. “I was very surprised -- just because we are a senior center,” she said.

The IT manager for Sound Generations, the parent company of the senior center, wasn’t available to say how much money the hackers asked for, but Teel said they had no plans to cooperate.

“We don’t pay ransom,” she said.

The attack happened at a tough time for the senior center.

It's busy trying to plan its annual "Spring for Seniors" auction gala -- its biggest fundraiser of the year.

“It’s playing on people's desperation and it was a challenging time for us to be out,” said Paul Sivesind, who is on the board of directors for Sound Generations and the senior center.

The nonprofit center serves 4,000 seniors in Ballard, Magnolia, and Queen Anne, and raises much of the money for all its activities and services itself.

“It really makes me sad that someone would target folks that really need and enjoy our services,” Teel said.

They say because of February snow, they were already running behind planning the auction.

“The ransomware attack really made it difficult,” Teel said.

It took more than a week of painstaking work, but luckily -- the center says its IT team managed to recover most the lost data. And now the rush is on.

“So we've have been scramble, scramble, scrambling,” Teel said.

The senior center said it needs all the help they can get -- items to auction, you to buy tickets and attend, and volunteers. The center also looking for things like restaurant gift certificates or gift cards to be donated for the auction.

You can volunteer or donate items by calling (206-297-0403) or stopping by the senior center at 5429 32nd Ave NW in Ballard.

Click here for more information about the event and the center.

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