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Dem-Gaz Digital Edition Returns After Cyberattack Against Distributor

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The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette resumed regular publication of its digital replica edition for iPad over the weekend after a cyberattack knocked out worldwide service by the Little Rock newspaper’s technical partner, PressReader.

The Democrat-Gazette was unable to publish its Thursday, Friday and Saturday digital replicas on PressReader, a global distributor of digital papers and magazines that announced late last week that hackers had struck it in “a cybersecurity incident.”

The Democrat-Gazette, one of hundreds of publications affected by the shutdown, quickly devised workarounds to provide something of a replica of the digital replica, but more than 10,000 calls flooded the paper’s switchboard. They poured in from the first disruption Wednesday evening until the problem was solved in time to get out Sunday’s paper, Democrat-Gazette President Lynn Hamilton told Arkansas Business.

“We received 10,400 phone calls between Thursday morning and Friday mid-afternoon,” Hamilton said. “This total doesn’t include the callers who couldn’t get through because our lines were jammed.”

He said PressReader representatives told him cyber attackers had hit the system, but gave no other details. “PressReader is a worldwide company with an extensive array of servers managing digital replica publication for several thousand newspapers and magazines,” Hamilton said. “Identifying the problem and restoring their software systems was a highly complex project.”

The disruption came “as companies across North America have seen an increase in security incidents over the past few weeks,” PressReader said in a statement. Once the company had an antidote to apply, “they began restoring customers in Europe first and then began moving west with the time zones,” Hamilton said. “PressReader is working with a major cyber-security firm and assures us that steps are being taken to prevent a recurrence.”

Back issues of the affected papers are available now on PressReader through the Democrat-Gazette’s subscriber app.

The Democrat-Gazette and other papers in the Wehco Media chain of Little Rock have found a niche with the digital replica via PressReader, which allows them to offer the paper digitally throughout the week while printing a physical edition for home delivery only on Sundays. While most publications rely on the digital copy as an extra, for the Democrat-Gazette it is the prime delivery method to subscribers.

Frequent disruptions would surely frustrate subscribers and “would be harmful to the Democrat-Gazette,” Hamilton acknowledged. “Also, they would prove fatal to PressReader as a business enterprise.”

For that reason, “both PressReader and the Democrat-Gazette are highly motivated to prevent similar problems in the future,” Hamilton said.

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