Saturday, October 23, 2021

Report: 'Nothing Works' After Cyberattack At Sinclair

In the early hours of Sunday morning, hackers took down the corporate servers and systems of Sinclair Broadcast Group, a giant U.S. TV conglomerate that owns or operates more than 600 channels across the country. reports days later, inside the company, “it's pandemonium and chaos,” as one current employee, who asked to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to speak to the press. 

“There is no work right now. Nothing works.”

Sinclair has released very few details about the attack since it was hacked Sunday. On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that the group behind the attack is the infamous Evil Corp., a ransomware gang that is believed to be based in Russia and which was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury department in 2019.  

The ransomware attack interfered with several channels’ broadcast programming, preventing them from airing ads or NFL games, as reported by The Record, a news site owned by cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. It has also left employees confused and wondering what's going on, according to current Sinclair workers.

“Whoever did this, they either by accident or by design did a very good job,” a current employee said in a phone call, explaining that there are some channels that haven’t been able to air commercials since Sunday. “We're really running in the blind [...] you really can't do your job.”  

Employees did not have access to their emails until Tuesday morning, according to the two employees and text messages seen by Motherboard. The office computers, however, are still locked by the company out of precaution, and Sinclair told employees not to log into their corporate VPN, which they usually used to do their jobs. 

Until Thursday, the company was communicating with employees via text, according to the sources, who shared some of the texts sent by the company. In one of them, they called for an all hands meeting. The meeting, according to the two current employees, was quick and vague. 

A Sinclair spokesperson declined to answer a series of detailed questions based on what the current employees said. Instead, the spokesperson sent the following statement: “Sinclair Broadcast Group continues to work diligently to restore the business operations that were disrupted by the recent cybersecurity incident. We are bringing the systems involved back online quickly and securely, and in a way that prioritizes critical business operations. All of our stations and Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) are currently on the air and broadcasting. While we are still working to return to our complete regular programming schedule and to resolve all programming issues that may arise, network and major sports programming has aired as scheduled, a large portion of other programming has and is airing as scheduled, and all our news stations are providing news programming to our viewers. Our teams are continuing to work around the clock to address this situation, and we appreciate our colleagues’ and viewers’ patience and support.”

The other current employee said that the stations he works on are not airing any commercials at all.

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