The Guardian is facing a ransom demand to unlock its IT systems after the newspaper’s workplace was shut down by hackers.
Employees have been told to work from home for the rest of the week following serious cyber disruption thought to have been caused by a ransomware attack.
The hack, which began late on Tuesday night, wiped out WiFi access at the media group’s headquarters in King’s Cross. Other shared computer systems were also affected.
Staff who were in the office yesterday were forced to work on laptops and mobile phones.
A spokesman for the newspaper said: “There has been a serious incident which has affected our IT network and systems in the last 24 hours. We believe this to be a ransomware attack but are continuing to consider all possibilities.”
Many of the company’s internal systems are still working and journalists are able to publish stories online and access email as usual. The organization insisted it was confident it would still be able to print its newspaper on Thursday.
However, senior editors were still in the dark about the nature of the outage yesterday.
It is not yet clear whether a ransom demand has been made, though hackers can sometimes wait several days before issuing a demand.
It is understood that the incident has not yet been reported to the National Cyber Security Centre, a branch of GCHQ.
The Guardian spokesman added: “Our technology teams have been working to deal with all aspects of this incident, with the vast majority of our staff able to work from home as we did during the pandemic.
“We will continue to keep our staff and anyone else affected informed.”
The attack will come as a blow to the newspaper amid rising concerns about cybersecurity.
Earlier this year, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp fell victim to a cyber attack in which hackers gained access to journalists’ emails and documents.
The breach, which affected UK titles The Times and The Sun as well as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post, is believed to have been carried out by China.
Jake Moore, a cybersecurity expert at internet security service ESET, said: “News organizations have become a frequent target for cyber attacks this year.
“Ransomware can usually bring all departments to a standstill, so it was fortunate this attack will still see some key areas working as usual.”
The Guardian has been based at its offices in Kings Place since 2008. Many staff have adopted a flexible working policy following the pandemic.
Executives at the media organization are now grappling with a darkening outlook as advertising revenues and support slow growth while costs rise.
In an email to staff earlier this month, Anna Bateson, chief executive of Guardian Media Group (GMG), announced a hiring freeze on all but essential recruitment in non-editorial departments. Editorial hiring will require senior approval.
The newspaper has also cut back on discretionary spending such as travel and expenses.
Ms Bateson, who took over as chief executive three months ago, has set out plans to focus on the title’s international expansion next year. She is also aiming to expand the company’s supporter strategy in a bid to shore up revenues.
But the media boss, who was previously chief executive of an online hair dye brand, is facing a governance row linked to the group’s complex corporate structure.
Anders Jensen, head of the Scandinavian streaming service Viaplay, stepped down from the board of the Guardian in September in protest against the process leading to the chief executive’s appointment.
Mr Jensen and other senior staff are said to be unhappy about the level of influence wielded by editor Katharine Viner, who pushed for GMG to appoint Ms Bateson.