Newspaper plant virus halts Los Angeles Times deliveries

A computer virus hit a newspaper printing plant in Los Angeles, preventing it from printing and delivering Saturday editions of the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune and other papers to some subscribers.

The Los Angeles Times, which runs the facility, says the computer virus infected systems that are associated with the printing process. 

The attack, which began late Thursday, led to delays in distribution of the Saturday editions of several other major newspapers that operate on a shared production platform, including the west coast editions of the Baltimore Sun, the Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, according to the Los Angeles Times

All of these newspapers are printed at the LA Times’ Olympic printing plant in downtown Los Angeles. 

LA Times spokeswoman Hillary Manning says the paper has been working to fix the issues but added that Sunday deliveries may be affected as well.

Technology teams at the Times have so far made significant progress in correcting the problem, but they were unable to undo it entirely before press time. 

A computer virus hit a newspaper printing plant in Los Angeles, preventing it from printing and delivering Saturday editions of the Los Angeles Times (seen in the above stock image), the San Diego Union-Tribune and other papers to some subscribers

A computer virus hit a newspaper printing plant in Los Angeles, preventing it from printing and delivering Saturday editions of the Los Angeles Times (seen in the above stock image), the San Diego Union-Tribune and other papers to some subscribers

A computer virus hit a newspaper printing plant in Los Angeles, preventing it from printing and delivering Saturday editions of the Los Angeles Times (seen in the above stock image), the San Diego Union-Tribune and other papers to some subscribers

‘We believe the intention of the attack was to disable infrastructure, more specifically servers, as opposed to looking to steal information,’ said a source with knowledge of the situation.

So far, the motive for the alleged attack is not known. The source quoted by the LA Times would only say that the attack was perpetrated by a ‘foreign entity.’ 

Biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong bought both the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune from Tribune Publishing earlier this year for $500million.

While Tribune Publishing is no longer the parent company of the two Southern California newspaper, the companies still share various systems, including software.

‘Every market across the company was impacted,’ Tribune Company spokeswoman Marisa Kollias said.

Tribune Company’s media portfolio includes the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the Annapolis Capital-Gazette, the Hartford Courant, the New York Daily News, the Orlando Sentinel, and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. 

The Ventura County Star, a Gannett-owned newspaper based in California, was also affected. 

The problem appeared to also effect newspapers in South Florida, a major market for Tribune Publishing.

The Sun-Sentinel told readers that it had been ‘crippled this weekend by a computer virus that shut down production and hampered phone lines.’ 

South Florida-based readers of The New York Times and Palm Peach Post also did not receive their Saturday editions since those newspapers are also printed by the Sun-Sentinel.

The Sun-Sentinel told its readers that they would be receiving their Saturday issues along with the Sunday editions on Sunday.

Subscribers of the Orlando Sentinel print edition received their newspapers on Saturday as per usual, according to a Tribune Publishing executive. 

The company released a statement on Saturday seeking to calm fears that subscribers’ data may have been hacked.

‘the personal data of our subscribers, online users, and advertising clients has not been compromised,’ Tribune said. 

The malware, believed to have originated with a ‘foreign entity,’ was launched late Thursday against the LA Times’ Olympic printing plant in downtown Los Angeles (seen in the above stock image)

‘We apologize for any inconvenience and thank our readers and advertising partners for their patience as we investigate the situation. 

‘News and all of our regular features are available online.’ 

The attack was apparently aimed at an important software system that stores news stories, photographs, and administrative information.

This, in turn, made it difficult to create the plates used to print the papers at the Times’ downtown plant.

LA Times’ director of distribution, Joe Robidoux, said: ‘We are trying to do work-arounds so we can get pages out. 

‘It’s all in production. We need the plates to start the presses. 

‘That’s the bottleneck.’

The Times released a statement saying: ‘We apologize to our customers for this inconvenience. 

‘Thank you for your patience and support as we respond to this ongoing matter.’

Cyber security experts said the holiday season is a ‘well-known time for mischief’ since there is usually a skeleton crew which is not as equipped to handle IT emergencies of this sort.

‘Usually when someone tries to disrupt a significant digital resource like a newspaper, you’re looking at an experienced and sophisticated hacker,’ said Pam Dixon, head of the World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit internet research group. 

This attack appears to be a more sophisticated assault which shows just how advanced malware has become.

Dixon said: ‘Modern malware is all about the long game.

‘It’s serious attacks, not small stuff anymore. 

‘When people think of malware, the impression may be, “It’s a little program that runs on my computer”.

‘Malware can root into the deepest systems and disrupt very significant aspects of those systems.’    

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