North Country newspaper group faces cyber attack again

WATERTOWN — The cyber attack that began at the Watertown Daily Times on Saturday reared its head again Thursday, but staff rallied to work without hard-wired internet to get the papers out.

The cyber attack crippled the data infrastructure of Johnson Newspaper Corp., which publishes newspapers in Ogdensburg, Massena, Carthage, Malone, Oswego, Hudson, Catskill and Batavia as well as Watertown.

After newspaper staff worked to return to moderate normalcy and began rebuilding systems used for advertising design and news page production, a computer virus began spreading again Thursday morning. It is not clear whether it was a second attack, or if the virus had lay dormant and undetected for five days before spreading again. The newspaper is working with cybersecurity experts to isolate the virus, determine its root cause and stop it from returning.

The virus, which left only the calling card “Ryuk: Balance of the Shadow Universe,” is the same one that crippled Tribune Publishing in December, according to published reports. It also crippled the data infrastructure of Stewart, Florida, on April 13. Servers targeted over the weekend were encrypted by the virus that spread quickly throughout Johnson Newspaper Corp., affecting servers used for internal sharing of content used to produce newspapers in Watertown, Hudson and Massena. Servers that host the newspaper website and subscriptions were not affected, according to an analysis by company information technology professionals.

Friday’s Watertown Daily Times had no obituaries because they could not be entered into the publishing system Thursday. Obituaries will be published Saturday. Some reporters and editors worked from their homes, able to work remotely, and others in the office relied on a host of iPhone and iPad wireless hotspots to work. The newspaper’s email server and internet-based phones used in customer service were not working Thursday. Readers should expect outages today. Obituaries and news tips may be emailed to JohnsonNewspapers@gmail.com. The newsroom and advertising phone systems, which work on traditional phone lines, are working. The telephone directory is available on the newspaper website. Classified ads may be placed by calling 1-800-724-0401.

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