News / USA

Experts Say Chinese, Russians Are Main Hackers of Newspapers

Three US news organizations -- The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post -- say Chinese hackers have infiltrated their company's computers to track their coverage of China.  Some experts say this has been an on-going problem for more than five years. These cyber attacks are different than most because of the danger to individuals.

A gallery at the Newseum in Washington shows the connection between technology and the news.

But the use of new media can also provide an opening for hackers -- who want to know what reporters are covering and who's giving them information.

These newspapers are not alone. Experts think nearly every media outlet has been attacked -- they either don't know it or don't report it. Hacking hits here, too, at the Voice of America.

VOA's Tibetan service broadcasts four TV shows a week and five radio shows a day.  Bureau Chief Losang Gyatso says his people confront hackers daily.

"We basically don't keep any of our contact information from our sources on our computers.  We are very careful.  We have shields and filters on all of our hard drives,"Gyatso said.

"Tibet.net is the Tibetan government in exile, so that address has been stolen, basically."

Gyatso says, like with the US newspapers, hacking has been traced to China.  

Alan Paller has trained 145,000 cybersecurity experts around the world.  He says more than 100 countries are involved in cyber espionage.

"China is noisier, meaning their techniques are often easier to find so they get caught a lot and so you read a lot of stories about them.  But the Russians are just as prolific and much more clandestine."

Paller says current firewalls, anti-virus, and intrusion systems are not enough.

"Although you can build high walls, people build higher ladders. So you have to catch the guys who are good enough to get over.  The way you do that is not with tools, but with skills and right now the media companies have not focused on this as a skill area. They figure they'll hire somebody after it happens," Paller said.

The Newseum has a memorial to journalists who have died while on duty.  Many were killed by people opposed to their reporting.  Patty Rhule is on the committee that reviews the names.  She's afraid of what hacking can lead to.

"If they can do it secretly, by a few clicks of a computer, that's an even more ominous note that you wouldn't even know who's coming after you," Rhule said.

Experts say the key is to make your computer so impenetrable that the hacker doesn't click -- and instead moves on to an easier victim.

Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.   She has also won numerous Associated Press awards and a Clarion for her coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, and The 9/11 Bombing Anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Asiana plane crash and was named VOA’s chief reporter with Google Glass.

You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at CarolynVOA, on Google Plus and Facebook.

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