Frustrated Dish customers still spending hours on hold weeks after ransomware attack, they say
A month after a ransomware attack on Dish Network, many customers say they are still having technical issues — and face wait times of up to 15 hours when they call to ask for assistance.
The TV and wireless service provider’s problems began on Feb. 23, when a multiday outage disrupted Dish’s internal servers and customer service operations, preventing Dish users from making payments or accessing their accounts. The company confirmed in a Feb. 28 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the outage was the result of a cyberattack.
In addition to knocking out its customer service desk, apps and websites, Dish said “certain data was extracted from the corporation’s IT systems” during the breach. The company is investigating whether the data included customers’ personal information.
In a statement dated Wednesday on Dish.com, Dish said payment systems are back up and running and that call center capacity is increasing daily, warning that it would still “take a little time” before their systems were fully restored.
But many frustrated Dish customers say it’s still nearly impossible to reach customer service four weeks after the breach.
Susan and Chris McClendon of Mableton, Georgia, use Dish to watch TV in their motorhome and only turn on service when they take trips. The McClendons said Dish never informed them that there had been a ransomware attack and they had no idea anything had gone awry until they logged into their app last Friday and couldn’t reactivate service.
After spending six hours waiting to speak to customer service, with one brief conversation with a representative who transferred the call to another department, Susan McClendon gave up for the day and decided to call again first thing Saturday morning. That went even worse, she said.
“I got the message that says, ‘Our call volume is unusually high.’ It says, ‘Your wait time is 847 minutes,’” she said. “That’s over 14 hours.”
The couple finally managed to get their service reactivated in time for their travels this week, but they are already dreading what will happen when they try to turn it off at the end of their trip.
“We fully expect we’re going to have to go through this whole routine again in a week,” Chris McClendon said.
Dish has been slammed on social media with similar complaints.
“This is insane,” one customer tweeted about her estimated wait time of 885 minutes on March 18.
The long wait times continued into this week. An NBC News reporter called Dish’s customer service just before 9 a.m. ET on Wednesday and was told by an automated voice that the estimated wait time was approximately 40 minutes. A customer service representative finally picked up after 70 minutes.
Dish said in a statement to NBC News that working to restore customer experiences is a “top priority” and echoed what it had posted on its website about making progress daily with customer service.
Michelle Manning, a Dish customer who lives in the Pittsburgh area, said she has stopped trying to call Dish. She was in the process of canceling her Dish subscription before the outage happened and has tried repeatedly to speak to a representative to find out why she never received a box to send her equipment back.
After being on hold for increasing lengths of time without reaching anyone, Manning sent Dish a certified letter in the mail and is now hoping to receive a response that way.
Like the McClendons, Manning said she was never told by Dish that there had been a cybersecurity attack. In addition to worrying that she will be charged for service she’s not using, she’s also fearful that her personal information may have been stolen.
“I’m thinking to myself, ‘How dare you not tell me that’?” she said.
Manning said she filed an informal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission last week detailing her experience with Dish. The FCC did not respond to repeated requests for comment from NBC News, and the Federal Trade Commission declined to comment.
“FTC investigations are nonpublic so we generally do not comment on whether we are investigating a particular matter,” the agency said in an email.
FBI cracks down on major ransomware gangJan. 27, 202301:26
International gangs of cybercriminals routinely attack American businesses and government bodies, either locking up their computers or threatening to leak their files if not paid a ransom in cryptocurrency. An unchecked ransomware attack can worm its way through a victim’s computer networks, rendering its systems inert and grinding its operations to a halt.
The Treasury Department has estimated that ransomware cost American businesses $886 million in 2021, which is the most recent data it has made public.
Many ransomware attacks on large corporations, like that on Dish, aren’t made public until they’re mentioned as required by law in financial filings.
Dish has said that the cyberattack did not affect service to its Dish TV service. But customers have reported other interruptions: Amber Guzman of Peoria, Arizona, says she uses Dish for her internet service and has been unable to connect since the breach. In the meantime, Dish has continued to charge a monthly fee to her bank account, she said.
“The most frustrating thing is that they’re taking out money when I’m not getting their service, but also the lack of communication,” she said. “They haven’t even apologized to us or sent anything out.”