Apparent Ransomware Attack Suspends Operations At Crown Equipment

Services at the fifth largest forklift manufacturing company will remain suspended until at least June 24.

by Mihir Bagwe June 20th, 2024

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Crown Equipment, a global top five forklift manufacturer, was hit by a cyberattack that has disrupted its manufacturing operations for nearly two weeks. The company yesterday attributed the attack to an “international cybercriminal organization,” raising speculation of a ransomware gang’s involvement.

The cyberattack has affected Crown’s IT systems, employee workflows and overall business continuity for the second week running.

Crown Equipment Cyberattack Overview

Since approximately June 8th, Crown’s employees reported a breach in the company’s IT systems. This breach led to a complete shutdown of systems, preventing employees from clocking in their hours, accessing service manuals, and in some cases delivering machinery.

In an internal email sent to employees, the heavy machinery manufacturer confirmed the cyberattack and advised employees to ignore multifactor authentication (MFA) requests and to be cautious of phishing emails.

“I currently work there. Everyone is scrambling, can’t order parts except for TVH and that’s strictly for emergencies. The company hasn’t officially announced that it’s been hacked but they keep pushing the importance of MFA. We can read between the lines.” – Reddit User (Williams2242)

The company in its press release revealed that the breach necessitated the shutdown of their operating systems to investigate and resolve the issue without giving details on the hackers and their ransom demand, if any.

Crown Equipment Attack Details

Crown disclosed that many of their security measures were effective in limiting data access by the criminals. However, the breach likely occurred due to an employee not adhering to data security policies that resulted in unauthorized access to their device, according to a Reddit post.

“I heard someone got a call from a hacker pretending to be IT. They installed a fake VPN on their computer and got access to everything. They created a privileged account on the network that gave them access all the systems. The network went down Sunday and it’s been down since with no ETA.” – Reddit User (DragonflyJust2223)

This speculation suggests a social engineering attack where the threat actor installed remote access software on the employee’s computer.

BornCity, a website maintained by a German-speaking digital observer, first reported the possibility of a hack nearly a week ago. Citing a distant source who used to work at the manufacturing plant of Crown, BornCity said the problems were likely due to a ‘coding bug.’ “This had sent the Crown 360 (a service likely based on the Microsoft Cloud and Office 365) solution downhill – but I take that information not as reliable.”

Crown Equipment, however, did not confirm the speculation and thus the claims remain unverified.

Impact on Crown Equipment’s Employees

Initially, Crown told employees they would need to file for unemployment or use their paid time off (PTO) and vacation days to receive pay for missed days. Last weekend, this directive was updated and the employees were asked to file for unemployment, after which several took to Reddit to vent their discontent.

“The fact that their not paying people for their mistake is straight bu****it. Crown pretends to be a family company but as soon as they need to support their “family” they shaft them. People need this money to live, while the owner can just sit back and chill with his multi-millions in the bank. Crown needs to take the hit and do the right thing.” – Reddit User

Another said:

Source: Reddit

However, Crown later decided to provide regular pay as an advance, allowing employees to compensate for the lost hours later. Despite this adjustment, employees expressed frustration over the lack of transparency and communication from the company during the incident.

Crown Equipment has reportedly engaged some of the world’s top cybersecurity experts and the FBI to analyze the affected data and manage the aftermath of the attack. The company emphasized that there were no indications that employee personal information or data that could facilitate identity theft was targeted.

The company is now in the process of restoring systems and transitioning back to normal business operations. They are also working closely with customers to minimize the disruption’s impact on their operations.

Although Crown did not specify the type of cyberattack, their description suggests a ransomware attack by an international cybercriminal organization. If confirmed, this implies that corporate data was likely stolen and could be leaked if the ransom demands are not met.

As Crown continues to recover from this significant disruption, the incident serves as a reminder for companies worldwide to strengthen their cybersecurity protocols, including isolating critical workloads, invest in employee training to prevent social engineering attacks, and establish effective communication strategies for managing cyber incidents.


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