The Wall Street Journal’s publisher, News Corp., got hacked. The thieves absconded with data from journalists and other employees, and the cyber-security firm hired to investigate the intrusion has sniffed the trail all the way to a Chinese intelligence-gathering operation.
Though the hackers were only recently discovered, they’ve had access to News Corps files and data since Feb. 2020. They’ve been scanning reporters’ emails, reading pre-released reports on Google Docs, and when the mood hit, even changing a line here or two on a report to sway public opinion.
So far, it doesn’t appear as though regular day-to-day operations were ever affected or that any financial data was compromised. This gives an indication that the hackers preferred to remain undetected as far behind the scenes as they could be.
News agencies are gold mines for government-backed hackers. Reporters are often in possession of sensitive information prior to its public release. If they happen to be an investigative reporter who keeps good notes, they’ve hit platinum. Newsrooms and journalists from El Salvador to AL-Jazeera in Qatar, to Mexico, and the U.S., have all fallen victim to powerful new spyware that gets updated faster than it can be kept up with.
The investigating cyber-security firm, Mandiant, issued a statement saying how their examination “assesses that those behind this activity have a China nexus, and we believe they are likely involved in espionage activities to collect intelligence to benefit China’s interests.”
Because of escalating cyber-espionage attacks, U.S. Olympiads and journalists were advised to only bring sanitized laptops and burner phones with them to Bejing.
Other agencies under the News Corp. umbrella, News Technology Services, Dow Jones, New York Post, and U.K. News, have all suffered attacks.
In an email to all employees, News Corp. said the following. “Our preliminary analysis indicates that foreign government involvement may be associated with this activity and that some data was taken. Our highest concern is the protection of our employees, including our journalists and their sources. It further stated that they believe the “threat has been contained.”
The discovery comes as no surprise to FBI Director Christopher Wray who in a recent speech said the bureau opens a new Chinese espionage case every 12 hours. They are currently investigating over 2,000 probes. Wray said the Chinese have targeted U.S. companies and private individuals more so than every other country in the world combined.
U.S. officials have said that although Russian hackers seem to gather the most amount of newsworthy headlines, the Chinese have been quietly stealing more important corporate and personal data as part of a long-range plan. The Russians are clumsy oafs without a calculated purpose who serve as a perfect distraction for them.
Former senior director of information security at News Corp., Runa Sandvik, said that all major newsrooms have beefed up their online security but that the Chinese are worthy adversaries in the field of technology.
As logic would predict, a spokesperson at the Chinese embassy in D.C. was questioned about the attack. He wouldn’t commit to the idea that China did or didn’t do it, but instead handed out a non-sensical answer. “China firmly opposes and combats cyber attacks and cyber theft in all forms.” Whatever that means.
The attacks are not going to stop. The U.S. is fighting an unseen war it’s not prepared to win. But it could be. It’s a surefire guarantee that we have some American’s running around here who can beat the Chinese at their own game, but it seems our government is too busy playing defense to be able to fight back. And if there’s ever a war that needs to be won, this is it.
All technological minds on deck. Your country needs you.