UK’s Newsquest media group disrupted by cyberattack

Newsquest, one of the UK’s major regional media groups, faced a cyberattack on December 11th, causing disruptions at its local news outlets. The attack led to intermittent website outages, preventing journalists from filing stories. The incident has been reported to the UK National Cyber Security Centre. The Southern Daily Echo, a local outlet serving Southampton and Hampshire, acknowledged the disruption in a published story, attributing it to a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. While Newsquest managed to contain most of the attacks, some readers experienced disruptions. The extent and motivations behind the cyberattack are yet to be fully disclosed.

Newsquest’s Daily Echo informs readers, ‘A cyber attack has disrupted this newspaper’s website, app and digital editions.’ Image by Cybernews.

The Southern Daily Echo reassured readers and subscribers that no personal data had been accessed during the cyberattacks on Newsquest’s media outlets. Newsquest, a subsidiary of US media giant Gannett, oversees more than 250 local news brands and magazines. A Gannett spokesperson directed inquiries to the Daily Echo’s article for the official statement. Newsquest claims a digital audience of over 41 million users and 7 million print readers monthly.

The cyberattack has impacted content management systems, resulting in malfunctioning websites and preventing journalists from uploading stories, images, and media, according to the UK’s Hold the Front Page (HTFP) online news site for journalists. The details regarding the nature and origin of the cyberattack are not yet fully disclosed.

An internal memo from Newsquest, seen by HTFP, acknowledged the impact of the cyberattack on journalists and stated that efforts are underway to improve uploads and administration. The nature of the attack resembles similar incidents, such as the one on the Guardian newspaper last December, which turned out to be a highly sophisticated ransomware attack compromising personal employee information.

William Wright, CEO of Closed Door Security, noted that Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, like the one on Newsquest, can sometimes serve as a smokescreen to hide more severe activities, such as data breaches. While DDoS attacks aim to disrupt by overwhelming websites with traffic, they may also be used to conceal data breaches or hinder an organization’s operations.

Ryan McConechy, CTO of Barrier Networks, emphasized the importance of investigating whether any customer or employee data was breached during the attack. He suggested that DDoS attacks, often carried out by hacktivists for political reasons, can be detected and mitigated through monitoring web traffic and identifying unexpected peaks. Additionally, the involvement of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in DDoS attacks highlights the need for organizations to incorporate IoT security into their overall cybersecurity strategy to prevent unwitting participation in such attacks.

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