Sinclair Broadcast Group hit by ransomware attack


Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the nation’s largest television station operators, announced Monday that it had been hit by a ransomware attack over the weekend that resulted in data theft and network disruption. Local TV station ABC 7 is owned by Sinclair.

The attack, first discovered by the company on Saturday, compromised some servers and workstations at Sinclair, with operational networks disrupted and data taken by the attackers. Sinclair said in a statement on Monday that it was still working to determine what data had been taken.

“As the Company is in the early stages of its investigation and assessment of the security event, the Company cannot determine at this time whether or not such event will have a material impact on its business, operations or financial results,” the statement from read. “As the Company conducts its investigation, it will look for opportunities to enhance its existing security measures.”

Sinclair notified law enforcement, unnamed government agencies and engaged the use of an unnamed cybersecurity forensic firm to investigate the breach. The company did not point to any culprits or comment on whether it intended to pay any ransom demanded, but noted that disruption would likely continue to aspects of the business including advertising for local stations.

Sinclair is a massive broadcast group that owns, operates or provides services to 185 television stations, along with owning and operating 21 regional sports network brands. 

The ransomware attack on Sinclair is only the latest in an escalating spike in ransomware attacks over the past year, during which cybercriminals and other malicious actors have increasingly sought to benefit financially from an increase in remote services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Critical organizations such as hospitals, schools, and government agencies have been hit, along with companies in key supply chains, such as Colonial Pipeline and meat producer JBS USA in May. Both Colonial and JBS chose to pay ransoms to restore services faster, though the Justice Department was later able to recover the majority of the $4.4 million in Bitcoin paid by Colonial. 

The Biden administration and Congress have both stepped up efforts to address ransomware attacks, with the White House last week leading a meeting of over 30 countries to discuss fighting ransomware, and bipartisan members of Congress working on drafting and passing bills to strengthen federal cybersecurity oversight.

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