On Saturday 29th Dec 2018, several newspaper organizations were hit by a cyber attack that prevented the printing of newspapers. Details are sketchy even now about the What, Who, Why and other key facets of this incident. What we do know for sure is that it was a multi-pronged cyber attack and it took out the printing functionality of the printing presses of several US newspapers, including the Los Angeles times.
Since the industrial part (preparing plates, printing, etc) operations seemed to be the real target of the attack, we can classify it as an industrial cyber security incident. For those of you who are not familiar with this terms, it refers to a cyber attack on an industrial plant or network, that can disrupt normal industrial operations. Printing presses can be considered, for all practical purposes as industrial operations and thus we can categorize this incident under the umbrella of Industrial Cybersecurity.
Often, Industrial Cybersecurity is thought of only as something related to Control Systems such as the actual DCS (Distributed Control System), PLC (Programmable Logic Controllers), SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquistion Systems) and so on. However in this case apparently the actual control systems were not affected, but higher level systems that control the publishing were impacted. Ultimately however the end result was the same- the newspaper could not print their dailies in time. You can consider this as similar to a Denial of Service attack (DoS), except in this case the target was not the website (as is usually the case) but the printing press!
The same printing press is used by the Tribune, whose newspaper production also got affected since the presses could not run. The Washington Post reports that
“Tribune Publishing continues to investigate the diagnosis and remediation of the malware that impacted a portion of our back-office systems,” Marisa Kollias, a spokeswoman for Tribune Publishing, told The Washington Post in a statement Monday. “We continue to make significant progress across the organization that set up Monday’s delivery of newspapers for a successful delivery schedule through extraordinary dedication and effort.”
More details are awaited.