Top Media Organisations ‘Hit Hard By Government Hackers’

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe’s Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Hackers, likely sponsored by governments, are hitting news organisations hard, according to research from two Google engineers

At least 21 of the world’s top 25 news organisations, from the Guardian to the New York Times, are under fire from hackers who are likely backed by nation states, according to Google researchers.

Attacks on media organisations take place regardless of region, Shane Huntley and Morgan Marquis-Boire said, after presenting their findings at the Black Hat Asia conference, according to Reuters.

The Syrian Electronic Army, which is suspected of being funded by the Syrian regime, has hacked a range of web properties belonging to media organisations in recent months, including the BBC, the Guardian, Forbes and the Financial Times, amongst many others.

New York Times - Shutterstock - © Stuart MonkMedia under fire from digital attackers

Chinese hackers were alleged to have breached the New York Times and the Washington Post in 2013.

“If you’re a journalist or a journalistic organization we will see state-sponsored targeting and we see it happening regardless of region, we see it from all over the world both from where the targets are and where the targets are from,” Huntley told Reuters.

He claimed to know of one attack on a news organisation where reporters were sent a fake questionnaire.

Most attacks involved some kind of spear phishing, where targets were sent emails either containing malicious links or attachments that would lead to malware downloads on user machines.

Ukrainian news sites have been under attack since protests erupted in 2013, and after Russia upped its aggression in Crimea. In those cases, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks were used, rather than malware-led attempts.

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