Cyberattack on U-T, other newspapers may have come from outside US

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SAN DIEGO — The malware attack that caused printing disruptions at The San Diego Union-Tribune and other newspapers Saturday may have originated from outside the United States, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Times, which was also affected by the attack, quoted a “source with knowledge of the situation” saying the attack was intended to disable infrastructure, rather than steal information. The Times said the source spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The source gave no other details about the origin of the attack or the motive, describing the attacker only as a “foreign entity,” The Times reported.

The virus caused production problems at the California Times printing plant in Los Angeles, where the Union-Tribune and Los Angeles Times are printed, U-T editor and publisher Jeff Light wrote Saturday morning.

According to Light, the virus impacted computer systems of Tribune Publishing Co. that are still shared by the U-T and the Los Angeles Times, which were purchased by Los Angeles billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong in June but haven’t yet transitioned from the old systems.

“We apologize to our customers for this inconvenience,” Light wrote. “Thank you for your patience and support as we address the infection. We are working to restore full service and to continue to make our journalism available to you both in print and digitally.”

The attack apparently began late Thursday and had spread to critical systems by Friday, Light wrote. Teams from both companies were making progress against the virus, but weren’t able to fix it before the newspapers went to print.

U-T print subscribers should receive their Saturday papers with the Sunday edition, he wrote.

The problem wasn’t just limited to Southern California, though. Tribune Publishing Co. newspapers across the country were also affected, including The Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Annapolis Capital-Gazette, Hartford Courant, New York Daily News, Orlando Sentinel and Fort Lauderdale Sun- Sentinel.

“Every market across the company was impacted,” said Marisa Kollias, spokesperson for Tribune Publishing.

The Southern California editions of the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times were affected as well, according to Light. Both newspapers are printed at the same facility as the LA Times and the U-T.

A later story on the U-T’s website said the source of the virus hadn’t been determined, and it also affected customer service phone lines that readers use to report problems with delivery.

Newspaper administrators reported the problem to the FBI on Friday, the U-T said.

A spokesman for the FBI’s San Diego field office said he could offer no information on the situation. A spokeswoman at the FBI’s Los Angeles field office would neither confirm nor deny that the agency is investigating the apparent attack.

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