Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Website for Sheriff Sales hacked

As if things weren't tough enough for Reach Communications Specialists, the public relations firm recently fired by new acting Sheriff Barbara Deeley, it appears that the Reach-owned website for bidding on Sheriff Sales has been hacked. Until a few moments ago, the front page of SheriffSale.com looked normal, but if a visitor clicked on a yellow button labeled “Free site,” the following image appeared:

Website for Sheriff Sales hacked

As if things weren't tough enough for Reach Communications Specialists, the public relations firm recently fired by new acting Sheriff Barbara Deeley, it appears that the Reach-owned website for bidding on Sheriff Sales has been hacked. Until a few moments ago, the front page of SheriffSale.com looked normal, but if a visitor clicked on a yellow button labeled “Free site,” the following image appeared:

hacked


Currently, all parts of the website appear to be down. It's unclear under what terms Reach was still operating the site now that it's not working with the Sheriff's office. Employees at Reach declined to provide immediate comment.

Reach was co-founded by John Davis, brother of Crystal Stewart, an employee of the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office. Stewart was also terminated last week. The City Controller has raised questions about Reach, which received millions of dollars from the Sheriff's Office without formal contracts.

Joe Vignola, recently appointed by Deeley to the position of chief deputy for finance and accountability, said he couldn't find documentation of any formal relationship between the Sheriff's Office and SheriffSales.com.

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“There is nothing I can find that links the Sheriff's Office to this website,” said Vignola. “There was a relationship between the Sheriff's Office and Reach Communications. As of Friday, there is no relationship.”

Vignola couldn't say for certian if any information had been provided by the Sheriff's Office to the website prior to Friday.

According to a cache of the site saved by Google, SheriffSale.com is supposed to allow people to “virtually visit communities throughout Philadelphia and submit bids on properties scheduled for Sheriff's Sale.”

UPDATE (3:51pm): The website appears to be back online.

We spoke with Jim Davis, one of the owners of Reach Communications. Davis said he was “baffled” by the cyber attack and that the matter has been referred to Reach's legal team.

“Hacking into a website is a crime,” said Davis. “We've never had this problem before.”

Davis said it was too early to determine if there had been any sensitive financial information stolen.

“More of the information is encrypted, but whoever did this must have been pretty sophisticated,” said Davis. “We'll be sending a note to our clients that they should be checking their credit card statements to see if there is any fraud.”

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