Umbrella company Parasol Group confirms cyber attack as 'root cause' of prolonged network outage

'Malicious activity on our network' spotted, says CEO, as some contractors say they've still not been paid

Umbrella company Parasol Group has confirmed why it shut down part of its IT last week: it found unauthorised activity from an intruder.

As reported by us on Friday, the umbrella company's MyParasol portal, where timesheets are submitted, was not accessible due to a multi-day outage starting on 12 January, impacting the processing of payroll.

Tech freelancers suspected a cyberattack was to blame for the blackout and sure enough the Group wrote to customers at the close of last working week to explain in more detail what had happened.

Doug Crawford, CEO at Parasol, said in an email to customers seen by us that the "root cause" of the issue affecting IT systems "has been identified as malicious activity on our network."

Crawford – who did not confirm the nature of the break-in, widely speculated to be ransomware – added: "The activity did not enter via the core Parasol platforms, but to ensure the safety and integrity of your data, we suspended our systems to protect the Parasol community. As you know, this included the MyParasol portal and our other outbound and inbound communication channels," he said in the email.

"The ongoing forensic exercise and investigations currently indicate that your personal information has not been extracted. We would of course have preferred to tell you more immediately about that exact circumstances of our system issues but were acting to preserve the integrity of the investigation."

An "experienced team" is still "working tirelessly to resolve this matter in a safe and controlled manner," Crawford added.

"Balancing speed versus safety is crucial in circumstances such as these. We have a strong dedicated IT, Security and Infrastructure team working around the clock, alongside our pre-existing security specialists."

Crawford conceded: "We know we are not providing our usual levels of support to you. Our system constraints are such that this has been impossible."

For freelancers wanting to contact Parasol, the CEO suggested using LiveChat, emailing via ES@Parasolgroup.co.uk or calling 01925 644 860.

The Register tried to email chief sales officer Greet Brosens last week and called the switchboard but the call didn't connect.

We rang the number above today and a connecting message stated Parasol Group was experiencing a high volume of calls. We called twice and it rang and rang for a combined 11 minutes with no answer, so readers may be in for a wait.

Crawford said in the email it was "continuing to make same day payments" during the last weekend to pay umbrella workers as quickly as possible. Some freelancers don't appear to have been fully paid yet, and a bunch jumped on Trustpilot this morning to voice their anger about the situation.

We have asked the UK's Information Commissioner to comment. ®

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