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Maine comic book stores face delays after distributor ransomware hack

Diamond Comic Distributors said it was hit with a ransomware hack, and that resulted in delays for some comic book stores across Maine.

PORTLAND, Maine — Tuesdays and Wednesdays typically mean new comic books like "Avengers" or "The Amazing Spider-Man" for readers, but after a major distributor was hit with a ransomware hack, some Maine comic book stores said they've seen delays and had issues placing orders. 

The hack

Benjamin Main owns Black Cape Comics in Waterville, and he provided emails from Diamond Comic Distributors based in Baltimore, Maryland, about the hack. On Sunday, Diamond sent Main an email saying, in part: 

"As many of you may know, we are currently experiencing systems issues affecting our order processes and communications. Our IT department and a team of third-party experts are working around the clock to address these issues and restore full operations."

The email continued, "We’ve determined that the systems issues we’re experiencing are the result of a ransomware attack. These attacks have, unfortunately, become increasingly pervasive in recent months, impacting organizations around the world. We want to assure you that customer data and financial information is not stored on our network and as such we have no reason to believe it has been impacted by this attack." 

Diamond distributes comic books for companies like Marvel, Image and Dark Horse to stores across the country, according to PCMag. Plenty of comic book shops order their comics from Diamond.

Main said his store relies on Diamond's systems "very heavily" for ordering and product information. He added, "To not have access to those systems definitely put everyone back work-wise for a bit. We weren't pleased."

Bad timing

And the timing of this distributor hack is especially challenging, Main told NEWS CENTER Maine. He's preparing for business travel to the United Kingdom for a comic book convention and said he doesn't have lots of time to deal with additional issues like this. 

"It certainly was another problem to get frustrated about," he said. 

Every Monday, Main said his store places a big order called final order cutoff for comics and graphic novels. He said Diamond's systems were back up before he sent the order but added, "You're always worried about errors and making sure you're getting enough product."

Wait and see

If there were any data issues with this hack or order, Main said that's definitely a concern. But he won't know if there were problems until his store gets the products he ordered a couple of weeks from now. "It's unsettling," he said. 

As far as Main's customers are concerned, the business owner said nobody has really asked about Diamond's hack. 

"It would appear [the hackers] affected business information more than any customer information," Main said. "[It] shouldn't impact any customers. But for businesses, it's definitely putting them on edge a little bit." 

Overall, this hack caused more than just a bit of work, the business owner said. If everything is recovered and goes as normal from here forward, Main said all this distributor hack did for his store was make life stressful for a few days or a week. 

Main said he hasn't seen any personal business information leaked or suspicious credit card charges and added Diamond's hack was basically an inconvenience for a product system to be down for a few days. In the best case, it's an inconvenience, he said. In the worst case, it could have some pretty big implications. 

Patient customers

Tristan Gallagher, owner of Coast City Comics & The Fun Box Monster Emporium in Portland, said he first learned of Diamond's hack six days ago. 

The ransomware hack and subsequent delays made things harder for his store, the owner said. 

"We sell weekly inventory, so it's definitely making things harder," Gallagher said. "But our customers are being understanding about it." 

He's been explaining the hack in detail to customers curious about why the new issue they wanted isn't on the shelf. 

"Luckily we have a preorder system in place on our website, so it's not as bad as it could be," he said. 

The owner told NEWS CENTER Maine Diamond has been sending daily updates via email. And he hopes things are back to normal by Saturday, but Gallagher said there's no guarantee. 

In an email Gallagher provided to NEWS CENTER Maine, Diamond wrote it notified law enforcement of the hack. 

"While some of our systems remain down, rest assured we are continuing to ship product and fill orders to the greatest extent we can. Our retailer services portal is online and available for final order cutoff this evening and tomorrow," the provided email stated. 

NEWS CENTER Maine has reached out to Diamond for a statement and will update this story when the company responds. 

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