Lease Duckwall, owner of Green Ford Sales Inc. in Abilene, Kan., was held up last year for $23,000.
But the theft didn't happen on the street or in his home. It happened online.
Computer hackers broke into Green Ford's network on Nov. 1, 2010. Using Zeus software, a favorite of computer thieves, the hackers monitored keystrokes on the computer of the dealership's controller. The thieves then remotely logged onto the controller's computer and tapped Green Ford's bank account with the controller's user name and password.
The theft from Green Ford apparently is an isolated incident, and there's no evidence that hackers are targeting dealerships, dealers and computer consultants say. The National Automobile Dealers Association says it has received no complaints from dealers victimized by hackers.
But cybercrime against small businesses is growing, and computer consultants say dealers are vulnerable.
"Just because a dealership has a firewall doesn't mean it is protected from any type of intrusion," says Paul MacDonald, a dealer computer consultant in Hays, Kan. "There are all sorts of ways hackers can get in."
He says one of his clients provided free wireless service for the customer lounge on the dealership's internal network. MacDonald, sitting across the street at an Arby's restaurant, was able to get into the network and view activity on dealership computers.