EO Advisor

Even Art Galleries Have Very Bad Days

"where's that money you sent us?"

When a gallery thinks that it has sold a $30,000 painting and, after some hair-pulling confusion, comes to realize that the buyer sent the money to a fraudulent account because an imposter has been living inside their email server — well, that is the epitome of a very bad day. 

When a business suffers a cyber-attack, that is a very bad day for all involved. That used to be a problem for the S&P 500 companies. Now, even art galleries with just a handful of employees are being targeted. No business that is connected to the Internet is safe anymore, not even our wonderful art galleries. 

Electronic Office now serves clients in many cities around the world but Asheville will always be our headquarters. Asheville is an easy city to love. We embrace art in AVL – musicians, chefs, sculptures, painters, glass blowers, ceramics, and many more types of artists are all attracted to this city in the mountains. In 1994, Asheville started to transform a post-industrial area of gutted warehouses and train tracks along the river into what has now become its famous River Arts District – a revival that is a model for the world. 

We have wonderful art galleries here. A lot of them. A new gallery called Tyger Tyger  had its grand opening in Asheville recently.  

And that brings us back to the importance of cybersecurity for all businesses of any size. 

We wrote about the dangerous and rapidly growing concern that the tech world calls Business Email Compromise recently. To be honest, we hadn’t given a lot of thought to art galleries at the time. But come to think of it, art galleries are an ideal target for the bad guys who are now invested in BEC fraud tactics. 

Art galleries tend to have a small number of employees and they deal in expensive tangible art. The owner worries more about the lock on the door than the email messages going back and forth between sellers, buyers, and artists. And yet, significant amounts of money change hands when art is sold by a gallery and frequently, that involves an electronic transaction. 

When a bad actor infiltrates the email server of an art gallery, a little bit of patience will soon open up an opportunity to worm into an email exchange and then trick a buyer into wiring money into the wrong account. This happens a lot more than you would imagine but it rarely gets reported. Only when the damage is devastating to the gallery does it possibly get into the news. 

Art.sy (often just called Artsy) is an art industry giant for buying and selling paintings. They host websites for art galleries all around the world. They maintain a huge database of art sales at auction and act as an arbiter for buying and selling art around the world. 

Whoever would have thought that Artsy would need to post an article for its worldwide network of art galleries that reads like a cybersecurity article you might find here in EO Advisor? They did. It’s called How and Why Art Galleries are Getting Hacked. 

The article is critical reading for art gallery owners, but also anybody who owns a small business and still thinks that they are under the radar for a cyberattack should read this as well. 

No matter the size of your business, this information is applicable. We don’t want any company anywhere to have a very bad day if we can help it. 


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