East Central Kansas Area Agency on Aging was the victim of a computer breach earlier this fall.

The breach at ECKAAA, 117 S. Main, Ottawa, occurred Sept. 5. Files containing names, address, telephone number, birthdate, social security number and/or Medicaid number were encrypted by ransomware, which means the agency could not “open or access the encrypted files,” a news release said.

“The important thing is we know how it happened,” Elizabeth Maxwell, ECKAAA executive director, said Wednesday. “We feel confident that nothing was taken by the random hacker. It is an invasion of privacy. We took it seriously.”

ECKAAA restored the data through the use of its backup system and was able to continue to provide services to its customers, according to the release.

“It heightens our sensitivity to passwords,” Maxwell said.

The agency’s investigation of the situation took two months to complete, Maxwell said.

“It has been a process,” Maxwell said. “You do learn a lot when you are hit with something that is [information technology] and that kind of level. It is a reminder we live in a global society. Don’t take the internet lightly. I learned so much through the process. Hopefully, I will not have to use that information again.”

ECKAAA hired a cybersecurity company to investigate the breach and deploy CrowdStrike advanced malware agents to protect against any future attacks, the release said. Although not every file was encrypted, the ransomware perpetrators had access to every file on the attacked server.

Maxwell’s first thought was wondering why a hacker would target a small non-profit agency.

“The answer I got back was hackers have no clue who they are actually getting into,” she said. “My understanding is hackers have a software program that goes randomly through and tries to come up with different combinations of numbers, letters and characters to see if they can match a password anywhere in the world. They just hit upon a password that had something to do with my computer and they had no clue who’s computer [was hit]. It was not a targeted attack. It was just random. If you are using the internet, you are exposed.”

ECKAAA customers can monitor their credit and financial status through the Federal Trade Commission’s website, www.ftc.gov. A person may order their reports from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies, the release said.

“We take very seriously our role of safeguarding your personal information and using it in an appropriate manner and have increased our cybersecurity measures for our computer system,” Maxwell said in the news release. “We apologize for any stress and worry this situation may cause you, and we are doing everything we can to rectify the situation.”