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News agency PTI hit with ransomware attack, news publishing disrupted for several hours

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The Press Trust of India’s (PTI) servers suffered a ransomware attack, disrupting operations and news publication for nearly 11 hours until Sunday morning, the news agency said. Its servers were reportedly hit with a “LockBit” ransomware attack — which uses malicious programme to encrypt all data, essentially making the files unreadable to the original users. Attackers usually demand a ransom from the victims to decrypt the data, so that it may be usable again. The virus reportedly encrypted all of PTI’s data and applications, virtually stopping all work.

PTI claimed the origin of the virus is unknown, and it isn’t clear if it was a malicious and deliberate attack, or a random one. The agency’s IT engineers managed to restore all operations without having to pay a ransom.

PTI is a non-profit agency that is run by a cooperative of media houses across the country. Multiple newspapers and online media houses depend on PTI’s reports for daily news coverage. Earlier this month, Prasar Bharati, the government-owned broadcaster, ended its contract with PTI after complaints of “anti-national” coverage during the Ladakh standoff.

PTI employs more than 400 journalists and 500 stringers to cover almost every district and small town in India. Collectively, they put out more than 2,000 stories and 200 photographs a day to feed the expansive appetite of the diverse subscribers, who include the mainstream media, the specialised presses, research groups, companies, and government and non-governmental organisations.

Haldiram faced ransomware attack recently: Earlier this month, food manufacturer Haldiram’s faced a ransomware attack wherein its financial and sales data were stolen. Hackers reportedly demanded ₹7,50,000 to decrypt the information. The hackers had also reportedly contacted company officials to extort them for the data. The case is being investigation by Noida police.

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Indian firms target for ransomware attacks

A survey by cybersecurity firm Sophos recently found that  82% of the 300 Indian companies it surveyed earlier this year were hit by ransomware attacks — the highest among 26 countries. This statistic, the company said, is not a surprise: “Cyber hygiene is generally poor in India, and pirated technology abounds, creating weaknesses in cyber defenses and making organizations more vulnerable to attack.” Additionally, two out of three companies attacked by ransomware in India chose to pay the ransom to get their data back. On the bright side, it was found that nearly India also had the highest cyberinsurance coverage: 80% of all firms were covered for ransomware attacks.

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