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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

United Talent Agency Hacked: Work Disrupted, Ripples Throughout Hollywood (Exclusive)

United Talent Agency was the victim of a computer hack that severely disrupted business at the agency on Tuesday, shutting down email, causing meetings to cancel and forcing staff to work on their personal devices, numerous individuals told  TheWrap.

Frustrated clients found their emails and phone calls going unanswered all day as the agency struggled to deal with what appeared to be a deliberate cyberattack. The agency instructed its staffers to use their smartphones and personal devices until further notice, which prevented them from accessing contacts and information stored in company systems.

In a statement to TheWrap, a UTA spokesman said:

“On Monday, UTA was the subject of a malware incident — an unfortunate yet common reality of our digital world that can take place regardless of the strong safeguards a company has in place. Most importantly, we have no reason to believe any private information about the agency, its employees, or its clients has, in any way, been compromised.”

The spokesman said UTA was working with computer experts to resolve the situation. An agency executive said they were not sure if the malware was a deliberate attack, but were investigating.

He added: “In the interim, every member of our team continues to have access to their email and phones, and the situation is being resolved.”

A virus affected computer terminals at the UTA’s Beverly Hills headquarters, resulting in cancelled meetings set for their clients and  other businesses like talent management companies, two knowledgeable individuals said.

“A ton” of calls were “cancelled and pushed,” a colleague at another talent company told TheWrap.

Additionally, a widely-used industry database called inEntertainment —  which logs production, maintains contacts and schedules meetings — was rendered unavailable to the agency, causing a ripple effect that slowed work at other talent and management firms.

Staffers at UTA were stymied, and one insider told TheWrap that the hackers were demanding a ransom of 25,000 Bitcoins, the equivalent of $30 million. The executive denied there was a ransom request, but acknowledged being aware of a rumor of ransom. The rumored amount was much lower, the executive said, a Bitcoin equivalent of $25,000.

An agency executive described the disruption as a computer “virus,” and insisted that business was being conducted as usual.  The executive said  that New York, Nashville and London satellite offices were not affected.

UTA represents stars like Chris Pratt, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow.

If confirmed, the hack would be the latest in a series of cyberattacks on major companies, and the biggest since Sony was hacked in a devastating shutdown of the studio in 2014.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Top Netflix, Sony, UTA Executives Join Women in Film Board

UTA Promotes 9 Agents to Partner

19 Brutal ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Memes Twitter Used to Rip Hollywood Whitewashing (Photos)

Source: the wrap feed


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