PressReader, the technology partner of the Times Free Press, said recently a system failure that shut down its operation worldwide was the result of a ransomware attack.

Canada-based PressReader reported a disruption of its service on March 2.

The company said it saw suspicious activity and brought all sites and apps, as well as PressReader, offline for 24 hours as a defensive measure while it began an investigation.

The network outage affected numerous sites and apps, including the Times Free Press mobile and iPad apps.

PressReader said it restored some services to some customers as early as March 3.

Subscriber access to Times Free Press products through PressReader was fully restored on Sunday, March 6.

“We can now confirm that the network issues we experienced were caused by a ransomware attack,” PressReader wrote in a letter to Jay Horton, the president of digital at WEHCO Media, the company that owns the Times Free Press.

In its letter, PressReader said as part of its response to the attack, the company is working with cybersecurity experts in its investigation, assessment and remediation efforts. The company said there was no indication customer information was compromised or that any partner systems or applications were at risk.

In response to emailed questions this week, a spokesperson for PressReader declined to say if the company knows the source or the motive for the ransomware attack, or to provide further details, citing an ongoing investigation.

On Feb. 25, PressReader posted on Twitter: “In order to assist those in Ukraine with accessing up-to-date information, we are opening all PressReader content in the country without charge to individuals. PressReader will absorb the cost paid to publishers until further notice.”

PressReader offers thousands of local, regional and international newspapers and magazines online, on mobile devices and in print, including publications like The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle, according to the company. The outage was global and included the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

A ransomware attack earlier this month that targeted one of Toyota Motor Corp.’s parts suppliers forced the automaker to shut down 14 factories in Japan for a day, disrupting the completion of about 13,000 vehicles.

There have been no reports about who was behind the attack, or if there was a motive other than ransom. The attack came just after Japan agreed to join Western allies in announcing economic sanctions against Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine. It was not known whether the attack was related.


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