Ransomware Attack Hits Sinclair Broadcast Group, Crippling Three Local TV Stations
Sinclair Broadcast Group is the latest company to be hit by a ransomware attack, disrupting operations at hundreds of TV stations across the United States. Locally, WSMH-TV (Fox 66), WEYI-TV (NBC-25), and WBSF-TV (CW46) are owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, with operations originating from their facility on Pierson Road.
What is a Ransomware Attack?
Ransomware is malicious software that infiltrates computer networks and locks files. Victims are often large companies that use elaborate, mission-critical computer systems as part of their day-to-day operations. Attackers often demand a large fee - or ransom - in order to release a decryption key to unlock critical systems.
What is Affected?
While all of Sinclair's 193 television stations remain on the air, the attack has disrupted much of the company's technical operations, according to CNN. Production of local newscasts has been affected since Sunday (10/17).
Many employees have not been able to use desktop computers and phones, and can't access the internet or email. Systems that control teleprompters, graphics, closed captioning, news feeds, and even weather-forecasting equipment are among those impacted by the outage.
Employees Told to Keep Quiet
Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley conducted a meeting with employees via Zoom on Monday (10/18) and is said to have instructed employees not to talk to viewers or the media about the attack.
Bloomberg reports that the hackers have been around for a while and have stayed hidden by changing names.
The Sinclair hackers used malware called Macaw, a variant of ransomware known as WastedLocker. Both Macaw and WastedLocker were created by Evil Corp., according to the two people, who requested anonymity to discuss confidential matters
A manager within the company who also spoke under the condition of anonymity called the situation "A complete f---ing mess."