GALA Hispanic Theatre: Overcoming Adversity as Hacked Funds Are Restored
In an unexpected turn of events, the GALA Hispanic Theatre, a prominent hub for Latino performing arts in Washington, D.C., found itself at the center of a cyber attack that resulted in the theft of more than $250,000 from its bank accounts. However, resilience and community support prevailed as the stolen funds were recently recovered, allowing the theater to continue its mission of showcasing vibrant Latino performances.
The Cyber Attack
On January 11, the theater fell victim to a hacking incident that saw the complete draining of its bank account. According to Executive Director Rebecca Medrano, the theater’s certified accountant initiated a standard wire transfer, only to be locked out of the system immediately after. The hackers, seemingly having shadowed the accountant, swiftly siphoned the funds, leaving only a minimal balance of around $3,000.
Faced with the urgency of the situation, Medrano took immediate action. Despite reaching out to both CitiBank and Bank of America to freeze or cancel the transaction, the theater received no response. Medrano filed reports with the FBI and Secret Service and collaborated with their cyber risk insurance company to explore potential solutions. With CitiBank estimating an eight-month resolution timeline, the theater launched a donation campaign to cover immediate expenses.
Community Support and Resilience
In a heartening display of support, the theater successfully raised over $70,000 through its donation campaign, reflecting the resilience and solidarity of the community. The funds were intended to cover essential expenses, including payments to costume designers, set managers, actors, and more. The theater’s upcoming show, “The Palacios Sisters,” scheduled for February, faced potential disruptions due to the financial setback.
In a surprising turn of events, the theater received notice on Thursday that the stolen $255,000 had been recovered. CitiBank acknowledged the difficulty of such incidents, expressing appreciation for the theater’s challenges. The recovered funds were promptly deposited into the theater’s account, providing much-needed relief and allowing them to repay loans taken during the crisis.
The Path Forward
While the exact details of the cyber attack remain unclear, it is speculated to be a form of Business Email Compromise (BEC), a prevalent type of cybercrime targeting businesses globally. The theater’s experience underscores the growing threat of such attacks, with BEC incidents causing significant financial losses to businesses worldwide.
As the GALA Hispanic Theatre navigates through this challenging time, the recovery of the stolen funds marks a significant victory. Despite facing adversity compounded by the passing of founder Hugo Medrano in May, the theater remains committed to its mission of promoting Latino performing arts. The outpouring of support from the community, coupled with the restoration of funds, reaffirms the resilience and determination of the theater to continue its cultural contributions to Washington, D.C.