Media group The Guardian has been hit by an alleged ransomware attack at its offices, prompting it to tell employees to work from home this week and avoid accessing shared networks.
Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of the Guardian, and chief executive Anna Bateson told staff on Wednesday that they believe the “serious incident” was “a ransomware attack” but that they were also considering other possibilities.
Circumstances suggest that the Guardian has suffered a type of criminal attack in which hackers lock a company’s data or computer system and demand a ransom to release it. The ransom demand can occur several days after the initial attack.
The newsgroup was able to continue publishing articles on its website as it has its own editorial system that was unaffected by the attack. “While some of our internal systems have been affected, we are confident that we will be able to publish the print version tomorrow,” said Viner and Bateson.
The alleged attack weakened the Guardian’s internal networks, disrupting access to Wi-Fi in buildings and to corporate services and shared financial systems.
The note to employees earlier in the day urged them to “work from home today” to “minimize disruption”. “Do not come to our offices to work unless specifically asked to do so,” the note read. “Please do not use VPN to log into any system.”
The limited number of staff at the Guardian’s London headquarters on Wednesday had to work on laptops and use mobile phones to connect to the internet.
Ransomware attacks on businesses were increasingly prevalent throughout 2020 and 2021, in part because the shift to remote work made IT systems more vulnerable to hackers.
But the number of attacks dropped by nearly a quarter in the first half of this year, according to US security firm SonicWall, in part because more organizations refused to pay ransom to cybercriminals.
Other potential factors include increased law enforcement and falling prices for cryptocurrencies, the preferred form of payment for ransoms.
The Guardian operates one of the most visited English-language news sites in the world, recording around 94 million unique visitors last month, according to Similarweb.
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