I have done business with Mark and VCS Technologies since he first started the business back in 2001, and have always been pleased with his expertise, persistence, and “think out of the box,” solutions to sometimes complicated problems. He has rescued the Post’s computers from some serious scrapes over the years, but last May he literally saved the day for us, and helped us get a paper out when all seemed lost.
Mark is the epitome of the strong, silent type. Unassuming, modest, mild mannered. However, after that Friday in May, I always imagine that he wears a Superman Costume underneath his crisp white shirt and conservative tie.
The Winona Post is one of the few independent newspapers in the country that still prints our own paper. Our printing presses are in the basement of our historic building on Second Street. The presses are old, but well maintained by our talented printing team. However, I always have worried about equipment failures. We have contingencies in place where other newspapers can print our paper for us, and ship them back to Winona, but it is very cumbersome and expensive.
I never dreamed that the biggest threat that could stop our production in its tracks would be a cyber attack.
On this Friday morning our Press Superintendent called me into his office and showed me the screen on the computer called “The Rip,” that takes PDF’s from our creative department and converts them to negatives. It informed us that we had been infected by “Ransomware,” and that if we didn’t pay the ransom, all of our files were going to be encrypted. We were on deadline for our Sunday paper and were printing out the negatives for our “B” section. We were still able to get negatives out, but things were slowing down…fast.
We called Mark Krinke. He arrived at the Post within minutes, and quickly told us that we had a potentially devastating problem on our hands. He ordered us to shut down all of our computers because this virus easily spreads through networks, and can infect your whole operation.
We were in a world of trouble. This virus is so horrible and effective that police departments and hospitals have had to pay the ransom to get their data back. We couldn’t send our pages to another newspaper to print because of the risk of infecting them with the virus, and despite the fact that I wanted to use our infected computer to print our negatives so that we could get the paper out, Mark stopped us: He said: “Patrick, you might be having a bad day, but if we don’t do this right, you could have a bad five years.”
To make a long story short, we had a ten year old computer sitting on the shelf that had been our past “Rip.” It was so old that it still had a CD and no USB Port. We later discovered that the CD drive was broken.
Mark took that computer (along with all of our other PC’s) back to his office. He was able to find a replacement CD drive, re-install the software, and get back to the Post in time for us to get a paper out that weekend.
Then he followed me into my office and said that we needed to put together a plan so that the Post would be protected in the future. We now have a firewall, virus protection, and have our files backed up on the Cloud. It was very reasonably priced…but when you think about it, what’s it worth to be protected from disaster?
So, when we needed help the most, Mark Krinke and VCS Technologies dropped everything and saved us. I will always be grateful.
Patrick Marek, Publisher/Owner – Winona Post