Watch out, journalists: Hackers are after you

Google security experts say that many of the world's largest news organizations are being targeted by hackers that are likely state-sponsored.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Major news organizations and journalists are under attack, claimed two Google researchers.

Speaking on Friday at the Black Hat hackers conference in Singapore, Google security engineers Shane Huntley and Morgan Marquis-Boire reported that 21 of the top-25 news organizations in the world have been targeted by hackers. Those hackers, the researchers told Reuters, are likely sponsored by foreign governments seeking information.

State-sponsored hacking has taken on a life of its own over the last several years. Several countries around the world, including the US, China, and Russia, are believed to be engaging in hacking to gain information. It's no surprise that some state-sponsored hackers have broadened their scope to journalists, especially given the information many top journalists have on companies and government officials. Huntley and Marquis-Boire warned that, while the tech industry is coming to grips with online security requirements, many journalists and news organizations are just now becoming aware of the threats.

According to the Google researchers, several news organizations were successfully hacked in the last year. Huntley detailed one case to Reuters where Chinese hackers gained access to a news outlet by sending a fake questionnaire over email to journalists.

The main thrust of the hacks on news organizations has so far come through email, Marquis-Boire told Reuters, but he believes that's just "the tip of the iceberg" as state-sponsored hackers find other means to target journalists.

For its part, Huntley and Marquis-Boire said Google monitors state-sponsored attacks and immediately warns those who might have fallen victim to a hacking attempt. It's not clear how other email services monitor attacks and handle responses.

Google shares are up 1.6 percent in early trading on Friday to $1,131.57.