Damage Cyberattack Halts Publication At The Philadelphia Inquirer

By   Adeola Adegunwa
Writer , Informationsecuritybuzz | May 15, 2023 10:31 pm PST

Based on reports from The Philadelphia Inquirer, the paper’s operations were severely disrupted over the weekend due to a hack, making it impossible to print the paper’s Sunday issue. The attack was discovered on Saturday morning when staff noticed the paper’s content-management system wasn’t functioning, the Inquirer’s website stated.

According to Lisa Hughes, publisher of the Inquirer, “anomalous activity on select computer systems was immediately shut down” after being uncovered by the paper. Corporation officials said the incident was the worst weather-related disruption to their operations since a blizzard in January 1996. The corporation is responsible for publishing The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News.

After an “extraordinarily busy weekend,” the newspaper’s weekend editor, Diane Mastrull, reported on Monday that the paper had covered three nights of Taylor Swift concerts, Game 7 of the Philadelphia 76ers’ playoffs, and the concluding speeches of the two mayoral candidates.

“I’m amazed to say we got all of that coverage on our website in our electronic edition on Sunday and then in the papers today,” Mastrull said, calling it an extraordinary feat by systems personnel and requiring patience from reporters and editors using workarounds to write and edit stories — and being in “the awkward position” of having to report on the paper itself.

According to Mastrull, on Sunday, subscribers received the early “bulldog” edition of the paper, which did not include pieces produced on Saturday. Subscribers received “the full Monday paper on their doorstep,” she added; employees expect the same on Wednesday morning, “when people will be looking for election results.” Officials have warned that classified advertisements, such as obituaries, will not be published until Wednesday.

She stated, “We asked questions and did not get many answers, and that has frustrated the staff, but I understand it’s a very complex situation,” adding that both employees and subscribers are concerned that their personal data may have been stolen.

The newspaper has banned its staff from coming into the office until at least Tuesday, with the corporation citing the disruption of employee access to the company’s internet servers as the reason. Hughes said Tuesday that co-working agreements were being explored by the corporation.

In addition to leading The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News, Mastrull is president of the News Guild of Greater Philadelphia, which includes employees from several area newspapers. She stated that when negotiations over the contract are resumed, guild representatives will make sure that it “reflects what the company needs to do to protect us against cyberattacks and other things we have to worry about in this new age.”

The company has notified the FBI and is currently investigating the scope and intended victims of the attack. According to the Inquirer, reporters from the Philadelphia Bureau of the FBI were met with silence when they asked for comment.


A cyberattack, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer on Saturday morning, has caused the newspaper the greatest disruption in its operations in 27 years. Inquirer journalists will not be allowed to use their newsroom on Tuesday night to cover the city’s Democratic primary for the city’s 100th mayoral race since the attack has led Pennsylvania’s largest news company to close its headquarters until at least then. According to the paper, this tragedy has delayed publishing more than any other event since a major snowfall in January 1996. After an apparent cyberattack prevented the newspaper from printing its Sunday edition, print operations are being restored. On Sunday, the Inquirer claimed that updates to the site were slower than usual due to technical difficulties. There has been no halt in online distribution.

The attack was discovered when Saturday morning staff saw the newspaper’s CMS was down. The Inquirer “discovered anomalous activity on select computer systems and immediately took those systems off-line,” publisher Lisa Hughes said in a statement released Saturday. According to her statement, the news organization was “first alerted to the anomalous activity on Thursday, May 11, by Cynet, a vendor that manages our network security.” Cyberattacks on media organizations are nothing new. After a ransomware attack in December, the British newspaper had to shut down some of its computer systems for weeks. Hughes stated on Sunday that, at this moment, we are unable to provide an accurate timeline for the full restoration of the paper’s systems.

Hughes replied to the publication’s newsroom via email, “Here is to express our profound gratitude to users for their patience work diligently to completely restore all systems and wrap up our investigation as quickly as possible..” Hughes referenced the continuing investigation. Hughes assured that the forthcoming election will be covered despite the operational inconvenience and said the company was exploring co-working options for Tuesday. Kroll, a risk advising firm, has been recruited by the newspaper to fix the systems and look into what happened.

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