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Hackers demand massive ransom as cyberattack plagues auto dealerships

Credit: Boast Volkswagen

A cyberattack on the U.S. and Canada’s most commonly used auto dealer management software has rendered over 15,000 dealerships unable to make sales over the past few days, and those who claim to be behind the outage are demanding tens of millions of dollars as ransom.

Auto dealerships in the U.S. and Canada using the CDK Global software have been facing an outage since Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the matter in a Friday report from Bloomberg.  The outage has prevented dealerships from normal operations using the dealer management system (DMS), such as making sales, performing repairs, and following through on deliveries.

“It’s just mass chaos at this point,” said Diana Lee, CEO of marketing company Constellation, which works with many U.S. dealerships. “The dealer’s required to actually run a DMS for sales, service, parts, for every single functionality — even stocking a vehicle, you can’t do it without the DMS system. So it is a disaster.”

The company said on Thursday that it expects service to be out for several days, despite it briefly starting to work again in between cyberattacks on Thursday. The source, who asked to remain anonymous due to the privacy of the matter, also said that CDK is planning to make the payment.

The person also said that the hackers are believed to be based in Eastern Europe, though conversations about how to handle the situation are still ongoing and could be subject to change.

The situation also stands to have a major impact on the auto industry as the end of the second quarter approaches.

On Saturday, a CDK spokesperson told Automotive News that there weren’t any updates on the matter, while many U.S. dealerships face what is typically a very busy sales day. Dealers have said that they haven’t heard updates from CDK, while many are still attempting to operate as much as possible on what is typically the busiest sales day of the week.

Robert Serrano, the General Manager of several dealerships including New Country Toyota in Westport, Connecticut, said that his staff’s morale remained somewhat high, as they maintained plans for a busy Saturday—despite not having heard many updates from CDK on the situation.

“As of this morning, there’s been no communication,” Serrano said. “I mean, I’m hoping, and maybe this is just wishful thinking, that it comes on today because it’s the second-to-last Saturday of the month, and I’d love to bill out some cars, but right now, [it] doesn’t look that way.”

Automotive News report also spoke with Todd Edwards, one owner of the Iowa-based, family-owned dealership group, Edwards Auto Group. Edwards said that he was also expecting a busy Saturday, especially because “the general public is unaware of what’s going on.”

Workers at the dealership group have also resorted to using paper and pencil for writing service tickets, as well as adding plans to follow up with customers via email.

“Parts is probably the hardest hit besides the actual accounting office,” Edwards said. “In sales, we’re able to transact customers but are unable to stock in trades and auction purchases.”

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Hackers demand massive ransom as cyberattack plagues auto dealerships
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