The Diocese of Metuchen: Recovering from a Devastating Ransomware Attack

Without Warning, a Cyber Attack Made Accounting Impossible - Sending the Diocese of Metuchen Team Into Crisis Mode

When Patty Murtha, Corporate Controller of the Diocese of Metuchen, sat down at her computer early on the morning of March 24, 2020, she encountered the unthinkable: an error screen where her accounting system should be.

That accounting system was critical because the Diocese of Metuchen is more than a modest religious organization. It handles over $65 million worth of transactions annually, manages accounting for several large cemeteries, and offers financing and investment opportunities for individual parishes, among many other activities. Like most multi-million dollar organizations, enterprise accounting software was essential for staying financially solvent – and then one day it was gone.

As Murtha soon learned, the cloud servers hosting the system had been targeted in a ransomware attack. Hackers had encrypted the accounting data for the Diocese and many other users before locking everyone out of the system. To make matters worse, the attack occurred as Murtha and her team were partially working remotely to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Diocese was already operating under stressed conditions. Then, without warning, a cyber attack made accounting impossible as well, sending Murtha and her team into crisis mode.

The Diocese Turned to JMT Consulting for Help

The Diocese of Mutchen has relied on JMT Consulting for help with accounting and technology since 2005. As the ransomware outage stretched into its second day, the gravity of the situation set in for Murtha. “All I kept thinking about was our fiscal-year end on June 30th and wondering how long will this go on.” She contacted JMT immediately. Her Client Account Manager was familiar with the situation, and JMT was already formulating plans to assist Murtha and others within 24 hours of the ransomware attack. Initially, that took the form of information and advocacy. Ransomware attacks are unpredictable and hard to resolve. When the Murtha had questions about what was going on, what to do next, and how to keep the Diocese’s finances secure through this unprecedented event, she turned to their trusted consulting partner. “JMT was giving us hope,” she says, at a time when the situation looked bleak otherwise.

We’re 100% back up and running, and it really is thanks to the efforts of JMT on our behalf – they walked the journey with us.

patty murtha
corporate comptroller,
diocese of metuchen

Realizing an opportunity to create a community of support and mutual aid, reps from JMT began hosting digital town hall meetings every couple of days (or as new information became available) for anyone affected by the ransomware attack. At this point, the attack had stretched into April, and the Diocese had gone weeks without so much as the ability to write or deposit a check. Murtha describes the situation as “insane,” but she’s also quick to single out JMT for their responsiveness at a time when good information was in short supply. The town halls were part of an effort to keep clients updated with the latest information. They also created a setting to collaborate on outside-the-box solutions to a problem that left the Diocese in a powerless position.

The fruits of those townhall meetings appeared in the form of a new cloud host. JMT leveraged its vast network, extensive resources, and deep experience in crisis situations to find a host able to replace the one corrupted by ransomware. This host not only had the capability to stand up the accounting system – it could do so on an expedited timeline to get the accounting department back to life ASAP.

The Accounting System Was Restored and Was Better Than Before

Around a month after Murtha first encountered an error screen, the accounting system was restored. And not just an approximation of what the Diocese utilized before. JMT worked closely with Murtha to ensure that custom documents and workflows created for the Diocese transferred to the new cloud host. “We’re 100% back up and running, and it really is thanks to the efforts of JMT on our behalf – they walked the journey with us.”

Murtha credits her JMT Client Account Manager with making the best of a bad situation. Ransomware is a new and challenging threat that can affect any organization, even a nonprofit. As recent high-profile breaches at Garmin and Jack Daniels demonstrate, there are few good solutions to these catastrophic cyber attacks. Yet in spite of the uphill battle ahead, JMT jumped in to do everything possible on behalf of the Diocese.

I don’t mean to say that JMT is the second coming of God, but they were certainly saviors in our eyes,” Murtha says with a hint of sarcasm. Facing a weeks-long accounting outage in the midst of a global pandemic is the kind of situation that no organization plans for. But, by Murtha’s estimate, the Diocese has recovered without any lasting damage.

The relationship we started with JMT in 2005 came through for us again in 2020.

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