- The Washington Times - Monday, October 18, 2021

Television station owner Sinclair said Monday a ransomware attack disrupted its network, interfering with news broadcasts across the company’s 185 stations over the weekend.

Some news broadcasts were pushed to social media platforms and viewers complained of problems viewing regularly scheduled programming, according to reports.

Sinclair said it began investigating a cybersecurity problem Saturday and discovered Sunday that ransomware encrypted certain servers and workstations. The company said data was also stolen from its network.

“While the Company is focused on actively managing this security event, the event has caused — and may continue to cause — disruption to parts of the Company’s business, including certain aspects of its provision of local advertisements by its local broadcast stations on behalf of its customers,” Sinclair said in a statement.

Email servers and newsroom systems fell victim to the attack, according to the tech publication Bleeping Computer, which said some Sinclair stations resorted to using PowerPoint for graphics on their broadcasts.

Reporters at Sinclair station CBS6 in Albany, New York, used Twitter to direct viewers to a broadcast on Facebook and posted images of themselves using handwritten notes Sunday and Monday amid the tech trouble.

Sinclair is not the first broadcaster to be hit by a major ransomware attack. In June, broadcasts on radio and television stations owned by Cox Media Group were disrupted by a cyberattack, according to reports.

Ransomware is on the rise in 2021 and has proven lucrative for cybercriminals picking high-value targets, including a major U.S. fuel provider and major meat producer.

Victims paid $590 million in ransomware payments to cyberattackers through 2021’s first six months, according to data published Friday by the Treasury Department.

The total value of 2021’s first six months of ransomware payments exceeds the total amount paid out in any year since 2011, per the Treasury Department.

“If current trends continue, [Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs)] filed in 2021 are projected to have a higher ransomware-related transaction value than SARs filed in the previous 10 years combined, which would represent a continuing trend of substantial increases in reported year-over-year ransomware activity,” read the Treasury report. “This trend potentially reflects the increasing overall prevalence of ransomware-related incidents as well as improved detection and reporting of incidents by covered financial institutions, which may also be related to increased awareness of reporting obligations pertaining to ransomware and willingness to report.”

Sinclair’s stock price dipped about 2% during intraday trading after the market opened Monday. Sinclair said its 185 television stations operate in 86 markets and it has networks broadcasting nationwide such as the Tennis Channel and Stadium.

Sinclair also filed paperwork notifying the Securities and Exchange Commission of the cyberattack hitting its system.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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