Skip to main content

State-sponsored hack attacks heavily targeting journalists, Google researchers warn

We all know that online isn't a particularly safe place to be these days, what with ever increasing amounts of malware, phishing, and hacking, but it seems that journos are at particular risk when it comes to targeted attacks.

That's not too surprising in itself, but the extent to which this is true, according to a pair of Google security experts, is an eye-opener.

One of those Google engineers, Shane Huntley (who co-authored the research with Morgan Marquis-Boire), said that when it came to targeted email attacks (over Google email services) designed to pilfer precious data, journalists were "massively over-represented" in terms of numbers.

Also, Reuters (opens in new tab) reports that apparently 21 of the top 25 news organisations in the world have had state-sponsored (or at least probable state-sponsored) hacking attacks aimed against them.

It all goes to show that if you're a prominent journalist or media outlet, then you really need to be taking extra care over security precautions – something it appears that many media moguls are only just starting to realise and get more serious about.

The findings were revealed at a Black Hat security conference, and Huntley said: "If you're a journalist or a journalistic organisation 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."

We've certainly seen plenty of hacking incidents targeting big media outlets – such as the New York Times (opens in new tab), Washington Post (opens in new tab), and CNN (opens in new tab), all victims of the Syrian Electronic Army – but many of these intrusions are apparently swept under the carpet and go unreported, for obvious reasons.

Darren Allan

Darran has over 25 years of experience in digital and magazine publishing as a writer and editor. He's also an author, having co-written a novel published by Little, Brown (Hachette UK). He currently writes news, features and buying guides for TechRadar, and occasionally other Future websites such as T3 or Creative Bloq and he's a copy editor for TechRadar Pro. Darrran has written for a large number of tech and gaming websites/magazines in the past, including Web User and ComputerActive. He has also worked at IDG Media, having been the Editor of PC Games Solutions and the Deputy Editor of PC Home.