The Heritage Company still closed and fighting cyber attack

Local News

SEARCY, Ark.- We have an update about the Heritage Company that closed just two days before Christmas without any notice to employees.

Today, former employees were asked to call a hotline, which would give them an update on their job status.

“She said we closed the doors until further notice. Y’all can call a weather line on January 2 to see if you still have a job,” said Tabitha Voisin, Former Heritage Employee.

On the other end of the line, a pre-recorded message from a director of the company saying, “Hello Team Heritage, this is Jeff. We’ve been working diligently over the last two weeks to re-organize in an effort to recover for the cyber incident, though we have made progress there is still much work that needs to be done. With that in mind, we do not want to prevent you from searching for other employment. Please take care of yourself and your loved ones and have a Happy New Year.”

“I mean to not know if you have a job or when your gonna start back to work is a little bit bothersome,” said Voisin.

Tabita Voisina just started working at Heritage at the beginning of December.

At the same exact time, Angaliec Harkey was hired as well.

“It was pretty devastating to me,” said Angaliec Harkey, former Heritage Employee.

Harkey and Voisin said they found out the company was closing while standing outside the building waiting for a manager to open the door to start their shift.

A manager never showed up.

“I was completely shocked,” said Harkey.

Instead, a statement was released by the CEO, reading in part, “Approximately two months ago our Heritage servers were attacked by malicious software that basically “held us hostage for ransom” and we were forced to pay the crooks to get the “key” just to get our systems back up and running.”

After reading the statement, both Harkey and Voisin were upset that the company had hired them when the cyberattack happened two months prior and had not been fixed.

“To find out that they never gained control of it is kind of crazy,” said Voisin.

“Even if they call back it would be really hard to trust that if they can do that two days before Christmas, what’s another day of the year?” said Harkey.

Both Harkey and Voisin said they are looking for employment somewhere else and they don’t think Heritage will open again anytime soon.

Here is the full statement released by the company CEO, Sandra Franecke: 

Dear Employees of The Heritage Company, 

I know that you are all angry, confused, and hurt by the recent turn of events. Please know that I am just as devastated as you all are, especially that we had to do this at this time of year. 

Please know that we would have NEVER gone to this extreme if we were not forced to. Now is the time to be honest and open about what is REALLY happening so that all of you know the truth, directly from me, especially since some of you have incorrect information and the spreading of untruths through social media is damaging us further. 

Unfortunately, approximately two months ago our Heritage servers were attacked by malicious software that basically “held us hostage for ransom” and we were forced to pay the crooks to get the “key” just to get our systems back up and running. Since then, IT has been doing everything they can to bring all our systems back up, but they still have quite a long way to go. Also, since then, I have been doing my utmost best to keep our doors open, even going as far as paying your wages from my own money to keep us going until we could recoup what we lost due to the cyber attack. 

I know how confusing this must be, especially after we just gave away 7 cruises just this week, but again, that was money that I spent out of my own personal money to give you the best Christmas gift I possibly could, but that was before our systems were hacked. Afterwards, I didn’t want to disappoint everyone by taking them back. We started the Prizes and Bingo the first of November when again I was being told the systems would be fixed that week. 

What we hope is just a temporary setback is an opportunity for IT to continue their work to bring our systems back and for leadership to restructure different areas in the company in an attempt to recoup our losses which have been hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

It is extremely important right now that we all keep the faith and hope alive that The Heritage Company can and will come back from this setback. It is also important that we all keep to the facts and keep calm. And so, I ask that you please share this with the employees who may not be on this page or may not have Facebook. To share this out of the group, you will need to copy the text of this post and share it as your own status. 

Please know that when I made my speech at the “Future is Bright” luncheons, everything was sincere and heartfelt. We had no way of predicting that our systems would be hacked at that time. Once we were hit with this terrible virus we were told time and time again that things would be better each week, and then the next week, and the week after that. Accounting was down and we had no way of processing funds. The mail center was down as we had no way of sending statements out, which meant that no funds could come in.

Had we known at the time that this would have hurt the company this badly, we would have made a statement to the employees long ago to warn everyone what this might mean. The ONLY option we had at this time was to close the doors completely or suspend our services until we can regroup and reorganize and get our systems running again. Of course, we chose to suspend operations as Heritage is a company that doesn’t like to give up.

I also want to apologize for the way many of you found out we were closing our doors. When we left the meeting yesterday afternoon, everyone had a plan for what was to happen, but we never considered that the word would spread so fast and far to each of you before your managers could speak to the employees who had already gone home for the day. No one is sorrier than I about you finding out from other sources who did not necessarily have the correct information.

So here it is: The Heritage Company is temporarily suspending our services. On January 2nd, there will be a message left on the weather line. That message will give you updated information on the restructuring of the company and whether or not we’ve made progress on our system.

In the meantime, I urge each and every one of you to please keep faith with us. We know how extremely hard you all work for each of the wonderful charities we all represent. We want you all back where you belong in two weeks’ time. We are a family, and my hope is that we will stay a family for a long time, despite this setback.

My mother started this company 61 years ago, and I am committed to keeping Heritage open if it is in my power to do so.

Sincerely,

Sandra Franecke, Owner and CEO,

The Heritage Company

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