More than 300 Spar shops in north of England hit by cyberattack

Photograph: Jane Mingay/PA

‘Total IT outage’ at convenience stores forced them to shut or accept cash payments only

More than 300 branches of the convenience store chain Spar in the north of England have been hit by a cyberattack, forcing many of them to close.

The attack hit the company’s computer systems, causing a “total IT outage” that has prevented staff from taking card payments and locked them out of emails.

Some branches of the chain, one of the few places to buy groceries in many remote communities, are accepting cash but the rest have been forced to close entirely.

The IT outage first hit on Sunday and technicians have been working through the night trying to fix the problems.

According to the Twitter account of one Spar branch on Monday afternoon, there is “no time set to be back online”.

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“We apologise for the inconvenience this is causing our customers and we are working as quickly as possible to resolve the situation,” an official Twitter account for Spar in the north of England told shoppers.

“It is currently impacting stores’ ability to process card payments meaning that a number of SPAR stores are currently closed to shoppers or only taking cash payments.”

Distribution partner James Hall & Company, which provides food to nearly 600 Spar sites across the north of England, has also been hit, and its website is down.

Earlier this year, Tesco was hit by hackers, leaving thousands of frustrated shoppers unable to buy groceries online at Britain’s biggest supermarket.

The attack took Tesco’s online systems out for two days, leaving shoppers unable to book deliveries or amend existing orders. Tesco receives 1.3m online orders every week.

The National Cyber Security Centre, which monitors computer-based threats to the public and private sector, said it was aware of the attack.

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