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Suspected cyberattack cripples news operations at Philadelphia Inquirer

Breach comes as the newspaper prepares to cover Tuesday's mayoral primary election

The systems breach at the Inquirer was discovered Saturday, with the problem extending into Monday, although technicians quickly found a workaround to publish stories online. Photo by Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA
The systems breach at the Inquirer was discovered Saturday, with the problem extending into Monday, although technicians quickly found a workaround to publish stories online. Photo by Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA

May 15 (UPI) -- A suspected cyberattack crippled operations at the Philadelphia Inquirer over the weekend, leaving the newspaper unable to print its regular Sunday edition and leaving staff without a headquarters as a major city election approached.

The breach was discovered Saturday, with the problem extending into Monday and affecting systems at both the Inquirer and Daily News, although technicians quickly found a workaround to publish stories online.

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Cybersecurity experts were still at Independence Mall on Monday, working to restore the Inquirer's operational systems.

The first signs of trouble came last Thursday when the newspaper was alerted to "anomalous activity" by its network security provider, although the paper published Thursday and Friday editions without incident.

When the Saturday crew arrived, however, they found the content-management system was down, hampering live production. With the company forced into backup plan, subscribers wound up getting a copy of Sunday's early edition, which was printed on Friday, instead of Sunday's final edition.

An electronic version of the regular Sunday paper was still viewable online.

Classified advertising and death notices were held out of Monday's editions, and likely won't reappear in the paper until at least Wednesday "out of an abundance of caution," Hughes said, adding that the paper does not plan to issue any refunds.

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The interruption came at a critical time as the newspaper was preparing to cover Tuesday's mayoral primary election.

Employees have been told not to come to the Inquirer offices through at least Tuesday as the situation was continuing to unfold.

In a memo to staff Sunday, Inquirer publisher Lisa Hughes said the newspaper contacted the FBI to investigate, which prevented her from revealing any details about who might have carried out the attack and whether any employee or subscriber data was compromised.

Hughes also said it was possible the newsroom would be displaced on election night, but that such a scenario would not impede coverage.

She also could not give a timeline for when operations might return to normal.

"We appreciate everyone's patience and understanding as we work to fully restore systems and complete this investigation as soon as possible," Hughes said in an email issued through a spokesperson. "We will keep our employees and readers informed as we learn more."

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