Hackers target news organizations

March 28
8:27 AM 2014

Two security engineers from Google say that 21 of the leading 25 news organizations in the world have been marked as the hacking attacks that are most likely sponsored by the state, Reuters reported.

Security software engineers Shane Huntley and Morgan Marquis-Boire made their findings known through a paper which they presented in Singapore at a conference of Black Hat hackers. Huntley said that although Internet users are vulnerable to email attacks aimed at getting their personal data, there were more of such attacks lodged against journalists. Huntley and Marquis-Boire said the attacks were initiated by hackers who were either working for or supporting a government, the report said.

Huntley told Reuters in an interview, "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."

Although both of them did not elaborate how Google traces such attacks, they the search giant "tracks the state actors that attack our users." Those who get these kinds of emails usually get a warning message from Gmail, Google's email service. VirusTotal, a website that evaluates files to determine if it contains anything malicious, is also owned by Google, the report said.

In 2013, various news organizations in the US revealed that they were breached. Three of them, Forbes, the Financial Times and the New York Times, were all targeted by a pro-government hacker group known as the Syrian Electronic Army. Huntley said China-based hackers were able to breach a Western news outfit using a fake questionnaire sent to the staff. He did not name the news outfit. Attacks like this are usually undertaken by using carefully written emails that bring malware or send users to another site where they are then deceived to providing personal information, the report said.

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