Hackers find way onto Landreth Seed site


By Patsy Nicosia

Computer hackers have forced Landreth Seed, the nation's oldest seed company, to shut down its website shopping cart during its busiest time of the year.
No customer or credit card information was lost in the hack, said Barbara Melera, owner of the Sharon Springs business.
And though she's trying to find a silver lining in what happened, it's hard.
"I guess if there is a silver lining, it's that we knew our shopping cart was antiquated, and now's as good a time as any to update it," Ms. Melera said.
The hack has also underlined the support of loyal customers and in fact, the simple kindness of people she said:
When she showed up at one of the first in a long line of the season's flower shows without money to pay for booth until she made some sales there, "They said no problem. They'd already heard."
Thursday, Landreth alerted Facebook users to the hack, notifying them that while they couldn't place orders online, they could call the shop or fax them in.
But the post also asked them to be patient.
"...we are a small company and there may not be someone there to answer your call," Ms. Melera wrote. "I ask for your patience and understanding."
Ms. Melera said they first became aware of the hack in mid-January when, on January 15, they didn't receive a single order-despite what she calls a good Seed of the Day.
There were no orders the next.
Or the next.
"And I started getting a horrible feeling in my stomach," she remembered.
The hack was so complex that it took her webmaster, a MIT graduate, the better part of 12 hours over two nights so pinpoint the problem, in part because though the company could see orders coming in, they were then disappearing; customers thought their orders had been placed, but their credit cards were never billed.
And Landreth had no income.
Typically, Ms. Melera said, Landreth does about half of its business through its website and almost all of it in January, February, March and April.
Neither Ms. Melera nor her webmaster has a good feel for whether the hack was a deliberate attack or from someone, possibly computer-savvy kids-"playing around."
"Whoever, they got absolutely nothing," she said.
"Maybe some kicks. "
Loyal customers are finding ways to place their orders, but Ms. Melera said she knows she's losing a lot of business-in what had been looking like her first January ever.
"I thought we were turning the corner on this thing," she said.
Shoppers can go to the Landreth website to research seeds, but have to call (800) 654-2407 to place an order.
Ms. Melera said they've added an extra person to help handle those calls; lines are staffed Monday-Saturday, 8am-6pm.
Orders can also be faxed to (518) 284-6026 or email them at info@landrethseeds.com.