By: Jennifer Saba
A computer virus struck The Blade in Toledo, Ohio, causing havoc in the newsroom and forcing late deliveries today.
The worm wheedled its way into Blade computer servers on Thursday preventing the use of e-mail, Internet access, and other internal communications. Editorial staffers scrambled using laptops, flash discs, and wireless Internet to finish stories.
The last news page got out at 3 a.m. this morning, about two and half hours later than usual, said Luann Sharp, assistant managing editor at the Blade. Papers were delivered by 9 a.m. this morning. Typically copies hit porches and newsstands no later than 6 a.m.
The Blade is still being cautious. Staffers are working on laptops today, though they think Saturday’s edition will be back on schedule.
Remarkably, the Blade, with a daily circulation of 133,498, made only minor tweaks to Friday’s papers. The Blade delivered only one regional edition to Toledo’s outlying areas — they normally have two — and trimmed the size of the entire paper by eight pages.
Sharp said the first sign of the problem occurred at 10 a.m. on Thursday. Because a system shutdown occurred, they thought the issue was the fiber optic cables. It slowly became clear that a worm, which entered the paper through the news server, caused the damage. “We don’t know if this was done through an email or if someone deliberately jammed it,” Sharp said.
Because the incident happened early on Thursday, the Blade issued press releases to TV and radio stations to get the word out that people would be getting their papers late. The virus did not affect their Web site, which is run on a different server.
Though they are still investigating, they think the worm was an old spy bot that preys on Window’s users. The paper’s Mac computers, used by the art, photo, and prepress departments, were unaffected. Sharp explained the virus showed up on most systems as “winuser.exe.”
“It didn’t seem to cause any damage other than being really annoying,” Sharp said. “The blackout was easier than this,” Sharp said about the 2003 power failure that struck the eastern seaboard.