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Iowa PBS cancels pledge drive after 'suspicious' cyber activity

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The Iowa State Capitol building Friday, July 31, 2020, in Des Moines.

JOHNSTON — An apparent cybersecurity breach has caused Iowa PBS to cancel the remainder of its annual fall fundraising pledge drive.

An Iowa PBS spokeswoman Tuesday confirmed the issue, which has not impacted the station’s ability to broadcast programming.

“In the early hours of Sunday morning, Iowa PBS became aware of suspicious activity on our network systems. We swiftly brought in systems experts to help us identify the issue,” Iowa PBS spokeswoman Susan Ramsey said in a statement.

Ramsey said no other information about the issue — including what, if any, personal information was compromised — will be released as this time, citing state law that says cybersecurity information is confidential.

The incident led Iowa PBS Friends Foundation, the station’s governing body, to cancel the remainder of the Fall Festival, which is the station’s pledge drive. That decision likely will mean a significant reduction in donations to the station; roughly half the station’s annual revenue comes from contributions and grants, according to a recent state analysis.

“While this will mean a considerable loss of donor revenue in this period, we believe this is in the best interest of the Iowans we serve,” the statement said. “We are more concerned about maintaining the public’s trust and our relationship with our viewers.”

The station said its broadcasts, livestreams and digital platforms remain operational.

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