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Ransomware attack halts circulation of some German newspapers


German newspaper ‘Heilbronn Stimme’ published today’s 28-page issue in e-paper form after a Friday ransomware attack crippled its printing systems.

On Saturday, the newspaper issued an “emergency” six-page edition while all planned obituaries were posted on the website. Phone and email communication remained offline during the weekend.

The regional publication has a circulation of about 75,000 copies, but due to printing issues has temporarily lifted the paywall from its website, which counts approximately 2 million visitors per month.

Today’s issue in e-paper form

Editor-in-chief Uwe Ralf Heer said that the attack impacted the entire Stimme Mediengruppe media group, which includes the companies ‘Pressedruck’, ‘Echo’, and ‘RegioMail.’

Echo, which circulates 254,000 copies, was also affected by the cyberattack, and there were issues accessing its e-paper on the website. The online news portal, however, continues operations as normal.

Heer states that the attack was conducted by a well-known cybercriminal group that encrypted their systems on Friday night and left ransom notes behind. However, as of Saturday afternoon, no specific ransom demands have been made.

BleepingComputer has contacted Stimme Mediengruppe for more information about the attack, and we will update this post as soon as we know more.

Employees working from home

The newspaper’s editors were told to work from home on their personal computers, and new email addresses were assigned to them.

The media group is working with the police to find a way to resolve the technical issues as soon as possible, as well as to try to identify the perpetrators.

Cybersecurity experts from the state of Baden-Württemberg are also assisting in the remediation effort at the request of Interior Minister Thomas Strobl.

“We officially work together with the police, data protection, and external experts in order to be able to perform as quickly as possible with the usual quality,” reads the notice.

“However, we cannot currently foresee whether we will deliver a newspaper every day in the coming week.”

Until the printing systems return to normal operational status, Heilbronn Stimme will continue to print emergency editions via a third party in Karlsruhe.

Because the media group is also a distributor, the circulation of other popular newspapers like ‘Süddeutsche Zeitung’ and ‘Stuttgarter Zeitung’ in the district of Heilbronn (pop. 350,000) will also stop until further notice.


Source: BleepingComputer, Bill Toulas

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