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California radio stations knocked off air by cyberattack

(Stock image courtesy Pixabay, Graphic by The Desk)
(Stock image courtesy Pixabay, Graphic by The Desk)

A cyberattack left several California radio stations unable to broadcast last week, the owner of the stations revealed this week.

The attack struck the Amaturo Sonoma Media Group, which operates four Santa Rosa-area radio stations, including KFGY (92.9 FM, Froggy), KVRV (97.7 FM, The River), KHTH (101.7 FM) and KSRO (1350 AM).

A person or group gained unauthorized access to several computer networks used by the station, including one that contained the programming database that the stations rely on to transmit music and talk shows. The incident left the four stations unable to broadcast for part of the day on Thursday.

The attack was confirmed in a pre-recorded message broadcast on some of the affected stations later in the week. The announcement was made by Michael O’Shea, the president and general manager of Amateura Sonoma.

“This station, and others in our radio group, has become the latest victim of a damaging, malicious, and intentional illegal server hack,” O’Shea said in the recording. “That is why you are hearing programming interruptions and awkward stumbles from time to time.”

In a statement posted online, station officials said they are still working to determine the cause of the attack and respond to it, with some systems still affected. Online simulcasts of the four radio stations are still offline.

“We are doing our best to keep you informed and entertained,” the statement said. “Our engineers continue to work to get us back to normal as soon as possible, but more work remains to be done. We apologize for the disruption of our programming, and thank you for your patience as we work to recover from this incident.”

The attack is the latest to disrupt a media company and its operations since the start of the year. In February, radio program distributor Skyview Networks suffered from a cybersecurity incident that left it unable to transmit news updates and shows from CBS News Radio and ABC Radio to hundreds of affiliates across the country. The fallout from the incident ultimately resulted in Skyview Networks and ABC Radio ending their business relationship.

Also in February, satellite broadcaster Dish Network was hit with a ransomware attack that caused some of its internal computer systems to go offline for several weeks. The Desk was the first to report on the attack, which ultimately involved the theft of personal information related to hundreds of thousands of current and former employees, contractors and others who have business dealings with Dish.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).