U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Ransomware attack on Sinclair Broadcast Group interrupts dozens of its broadcasts

Incident Details

October 16, 2021

Sinclair Broadcast Group, a major media conglomerate with 185 TV stations across 86 U.S. markets, was targeted by a ransomware attack on Oct. 16, 2021.

In ransomware attacks, hackers use malicious software, or “malware,” to seize control of a company’s IT and digital assets and demand the company pay a ransom for their return.

In a press release, Sinclair said the cyberattack infected operational servers and workstations, disrupting many of its local news stations. Sinclair also said data was stolen from the company’s network and was working with law enforcement and government agencies to identify the type of information contained in it.

“While the Company is focused on actively managing this security event, the event has caused – and may continue to cause – disruption to parts of the Company’s business, including certain aspects of its provision of local advertisements by its local broadcast stations on behalf of its customers,” according to the release. Sinclair did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

According to The Record, the ransomware attack delayed dozens of local morning shows, news segments and professional sports from airing on Oct. 17.

In its fourth quarter earnings statement, Sinclair said it did not pay any ransom to restore the networks but the incident resulted in a $63 million loss in advertising revenue.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker documents similar cyberattacks that interrupt the distribution of news, including when hackers targeted Cox Media Group with ransomware in June 2021 and impacted more than a dozen Cox-owned TV and radio stations.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].