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Hackers Reportedly Target Cox Media Group Stations

A man types on a laptop in the dark
(Image credit: Andrew Brookes via Getty Images)

A day after live streams for its radio and television stations were attacked by hackers in an apparent ransomware incident, Cox Media Group properties across the country were still largely unavailable.

Cox Media owns 65 radio stations in 11 markets, 33 television stations in 20 markets, and several multi-platform streaming video and digital platforms. The TV stations, in markets like Boston; Pittsburgh; Dayton, Ohio; Seattle; and Tulsa, Oklahoma are a mixture of major network affiliates like ABC, Fox, CBS, NBC and My Network TV and independents. 

According to a report in Inside Radio, the attack began on the morning of June 3, and was apparently centered on internal networks and live streaming capabilities such as web streams and mobile apps at the Cox Media properties. Websites for the stations and most programming remained unharmed, but according to Inside Radio some live stream programming and newscasts had to be canceled. 

The attack apparently didn’t affect traditional pay TV feeds for the channels. Dish Network, which reached a carriage deal with Cox Media for about 14 channels in December, said it experienced no issues with the broadcaster. 

Cox Media representatives did not return requests for comment, but according to reports, several stations informed employees to shut down their work computers and phones on June 3.

NBC News reported that at least two stations — ABC affiliate WFTV in Orlando, Florida, and NBC affiliate WPXI in Pittsburgh — were affected, with WFTV telling workers to stay home Thursday.  Other reports claimed that Cox stations in Charlotte, North Carolina ABC affiliate WSOC-TV and Tulsa Fox affiliate KOKI-TV were affected as well. As of Friday afternoon some reports said a few of the stations were beginning to resume their online streams, but streams for Cox Media radio stations were still unavailable.

As of 6 p.m. ET Friday, online streaming for Cox Media’s Alexandria, Louisiana ABC affiliate KLAX-TV, Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB-TV, Boston Fox affiliate WFXT, Dayton, Ohio CBS affiliate WHIO-TV, Charlotte ABC affiliate WSOC-TV, Orlando ABC affiliate WFTV and Tulsa Fox affiliate KOKI-TV was either unavailable or showing partial replays of old newscasts. 

Streaming services like Hulu Live, which carry local broadcast streams, also were impacted. Hulu Live temporarily replaced WSB-TV’s broadcast feed with ABC News Live until the local feed was restored. 

According to a report in cybersecurity publication The Record, Cox Media employees were saying earlier this morning that they had shut down their systems in time and that they “should be back up and running soon.” 

The attack comes shortly after some high-profile ransomware incidents, including the May hack of the Colonial Pipeline which choked off gasoline supplies up and down the East Coast for days. Colonial  reportedly paid $4.4 million to hackers to get fuel flowing again. Earlier this month, meat producer JBS shut down nine beef plants in the U.S. after a similar ransomware attack.  

On Thursday, deputy national security adviser Anne Neuberger issued an open letter urging companies to take security precautions to protect against ransomware attacks.

Mike Farrell is senior content producer, finance for Multichannel News/B+C, covering finance, operations and M&A at cable operators and networks across the industry. He joined Multichannel News in September 1998 and has written about major deals and top players in the business ever since. He also writes the On The Money blog, offering deeper dives into a wide variety of topics including, retransmission consent, regional sports networks,and streaming video. In 2015 he won the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Profile, an in-depth look at the Syfy Network’s Sharknado franchise and its impact on the industry.