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Benefit reading for Nelson author victimized by RANSOMWARE

By Contributor
August 19th, 2016

There’s going to be a benefit reading (Friday) August 26 in support of a noted Nelson  author and publisher whose computer was frozen and access to files blocked in April by cyber extortionists.

The reading, set for in Room 310 of Selkirk College’s Kootenay Studio Arts building, 606 Victoria St., will feature Ernest Hekkanen.

Hekkanen has refused to pay the ransom demanded, as well as brief readings by three contributors to Hekkanen’s award-winning literary magazine, New Orphic Review. A local computer expert, whose career has included a stint as a disaster recovery consultant, will speak about how ransomware works and how computer users can protect themselves from it.

Admission is by donation, with Hekkanen donating a copy of one of his published books of fiction or nonfiction to anyone donating $20 or more.

The money raised by the benefit will go to offset the costs of replacing Hekkanen’s computer, and of leasing a layout program to allow him to continue publishing the magazine.

Reading with Hekkanen will be Kootenay authors Linda Crosfield, a former featured poet in New Orphic Review, along with Ross Klatte, whose memoir Leaving the Farm was published in 2007. One of Klatte’s short stories that appeared in New Orphic Review was nominated for the national $10,000 Journey Prize for short fiction in 2011.

“I had just finished emailing a friend on April 28 when hundreds of webpage images began to flicker at lightning speed across the screen,” Hekkanen said.

“The icons on my desktop were seized by a mantis-looking thingamajig, followed by a message printed in white on a black background, informing me that my computer had been taken over and my files wouldn’t be returned to me without paying a hefty ransom.”

Hekkanen said the sum demanded was several thousand dollars. The extortionists’ message informed him that the longer he took to respond, the more money would be required to restore his computer.

Hekkanen’s refusal to encourage cybercriminals contrasts with the University of Calgary’s decision to pay a $20,000 ransom May 31 after its computer system was compromised.

“A ransomware attack involves an unknown cyberattacker locking or encrypting computers or computer networks until a ransom is paid, and when it is, keys, or methods of decryption are provided,” the university said in a press release at the time.

Linda Dalgetty, vice president of finances and services at the University of Calgary, told CBC news in June that the decision was made to pay the ransom because of the threat of faculty losing their life’s work of research. She said the decryption information given after the ransom was paid unlocked faculty’s files, as well as staff and faculty emails.

Also reading will be Diana Morita Cole, whose 2015 memoir, Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit, follows her life after being born in an Idaho internment camp for Japanese-Americans.

A story by a non-Kootenay author published in Hekkanen’s magazine won the Journey prize in 2014. Hekkanen’s own volumes of fiction and nonfiction include the 2015 memoir, False Memories.

His home gallery is listed as Nelson’s sole Literary Landmark by the book review newspaper, B.C. BookWorld.

The August 26 benefit reading is co-sponsored by Nelson’s Elephant Mountain Literary Festival and Oxygen Art Centre.

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