TV Stations Victims of Ransomware Attack

Media broadcasting giant Sinclair Broadcasting Group was the subject of a ransomware attack, disrupting television stations and programming across the country.

Sinclair owns several CW, MYTV, and FOX stations. Their official statement claims, “On October 17, 2021, the Company identified that certain servers and workstations in its environment were encrypted with ransomware and that certain office and operational networks were disrupted.”

Cybercriminals use ransomware to steal data and take control of victims’ computer systems. They then demand payment to remove the block and restore operations.

The ransomware also collected data, but Sinclair is still working to uncover exactly what data was compromised. An investigation is still underway by an outside cybersecurity forensic firm. Sinclair is “working around the clock to quickly and securely restore business operations that have been disrupted, and to help minimize disruption to our viewers.”

Sinclair declined to say how many of their 185 television stations in 86 markets were affected. 

At least one Fresno station, KMPH, was reportedly affected, along with KOMO, KHQA in Hannibal, Mississippi; WLUK Fox 11 in Wisconsin; CBS Channel 6 in Albany, New York; and KATU, which broadcasts to Portland and Southwest Washington.

A separate, seemingly unrelated yet even more invasive incident occurred at another Washington news station owned by a different parent company, TEGNA. 

Ten to thirteen seconds of a pornographic scene played behind the meteorologist during Sunday’s 6 pm news segment. Calls poured in from viewers to report the snafu. An investigation is underway to determine if it was a criminal act and how it occurred in the first place. 

Though not their fault, the station could face fines from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC had previously issued a $325,000 fine to another station in 2015 for a similar incident.

TEGNA emailed a statement to the Spokesman-review, “We apologized to our viewers last night during our 11 pm newscast – Those of us here at KREM 2 want to apologize for something that happened in our 6 pm newscast tonight. An inappropriate video aired in the first part of the show. We are diligently working to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

No connection has been made between Sinclair and TEGNA’s disruptions. Sinclair was still having problems as of Tuesday. Investigations are still underway for both.

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