After Layoffs, ‘Pink Slip’ Virus Hits Dow Jones

Timing prompts rumors of sabotage

Dow Jones has been battling the nasty “pink slip” computer virus all week. And its arrival just days after two dozen or so techs were laid off has led to speculation that the company was a victim of sabotage.

The timing of the infection, which hit May 12, was ominous, as 34 employees represented by the Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees, most of them techs, got actual pink slips a few days earlier. “Everybody’s saying that somebody left it as a going-away present,” a Dow Jones employee said. But Steve Yount, IAPE’s president, said he understood the virus was “'complicated and intricate' enough that it could not have been loaded and triggered  in the time frame of Tuesday to Thursday.” The company is investigating the cause.

While the company ensured employees that its servers, network, and data weren’t compromised, the virus slowed down computers, and employees have been bombarded with voicemail and email messages ordering them to power down their computers until they can be cleaned. Emails spoke of a prescription drug-like "stinger" that was being used on "infected PCs" to "eradicate the active virus" and of the virus morphing so that antivirus software was ineffective, leading staffers to joke about the side effects of the antibacterial soap in the bathroom.

By May 18, the company had determined that the virus was designed to steal credentials from banking websites and directed employees not to use any banking sites for the time being. “It was a hassle and a pain in the butt,” said another employee.

The virus has been around a while, but this is the first time it’s infected Dow Jones, the News Corp. subsidiary that publishes The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and Dow Jones Newswires.

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