Latest ransomware attacks hit TV news stations in Florida, Pittsburgh

The latest ransomware attacks against U.S. companies and organizations appeared to hit two television news companies owned by Cox Media on Thursday, forcing personnel to shut down internet communication operations to keep the attack from spreading, Fox News reported.

WFTV in Orlando, Florida, and WPXI in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania were both offline Thursday after the attacks, but were still able to do limited local broadcasts, according to NBC News. Employees were told to log out of their computers and company email accounts to avoid infecting them, and the stations’ sites and broadcasts seemed to be back up and running Friday.

“According to my friends at affiliate stations, we shut things down in time to be safe and should be back up and running soon,” a Cox employee said Thursday.

Employees asked not to tweet about outages

Tweets about the outages were verboten, with employees who did so being asked to delete them, FTV Live said.

“They wouldn’t let us say anything on social media about why we weren’t on the air,” one Orlando employee said. “We feel a need to let our viewers know.”

The TV stations are the latest victims in a string of ransomware attacks, including the Colonial Pipeline attack that shut down oil and gas supplies to several states in May and meat producer JBS USA, which shut down American beef processing plants this week after a cyberattack.

On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Steamboat Authority was also targeted with ransomware, and ferry service to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket was disrupted.

Task force hopes to stop ransomware attacks

Because of the increase of the attacks, the Justice Department has taken steps to put cyberattacks on par with terrorist attacks in the way they are investigated and combated, according to Reuters.

The ransomware attacks are to be investigated in coordination with the newly created Ransomware and Digital Extortion Task Force, a DOJ task force that focuses on cybercrimes.

“It’s a specialized process to ensure we track all ransomware cases regardless of where it may be referred in this country, so you can make the connections between actors and work your way up to disrupt the whole chain,” explained John Carlin, principle associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department.

The DOJ should consider that the ransomware attacks, which are believed to be coming from Russia, may be practice runs for larger attacks that could hit critical infrastructure and cause even more widespread disruptions to services that may be essential to Americans in larger areas.

A cyberattack on the power grid, for example, could cut electrical power to large swaths of the American population, while an attack on a trucking company, if successful, could result in major supply chain issues that could disrupt people’s ability to get food and other supplies.

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