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China suspected of cyber attack on News Corp

According to Reuters, hackers broke into News Corp email accounts and compromised the data of an unspecified number of journalists, the media firm disclosed last week.

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Mon, 07 Feb 2022
China suspected of cyber attack on News Corp
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The hack was likely aimed at gathering intelligence for Beijing's benefit, according to News Corp's internet security adviser.

The breach was discovered in late January and affected emails and documents of what it described as a limited number of employees, including journalists. News Corp, which publishes The Wall Street Journal, confirmed that cyber security firm Mandiant had contained the breach.

The hackers were believed to have "a China nexus, and we believe they are likely involved in espionage activities to collect intelligence to benefit China's interests," according to David Wong, vice-president of consulting at Mandiant.

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A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington said he was unaware of the details of the reports but that he hoped "there can be a professional, responsible and evidence-based approach to identifying cyber-related incidents, rather than making allegations based on speculations".

In a letter seen by Reuters, News Corp company executives told their employees that "we believe the activity affected a limited number of business email accounts and documents from News Corp headquarters, News Technology Services, Dow Jones, News UK, and New York Post."

"Our preliminary analysis indicates that foreign government involvement may be associated with this activity, and that some data was taken," News Corp executives said.

The company added that its other business units, including HarperCollins Publishers, Move, News Corp Australia, Foxtel, REA, and Storyful, were not targeted in the attack.

News Corp shares were down 1.3 per cent in morning trading.

Chinese hackers have repeatedly been blamed for hacks of journalists both in the United States and elsewhere.

In 2013, for example, The New York Times reported a breach which it said had affected 53 personal computers belonging to its employees. The timing of those intrusions corresponded with its investigation into the wealth accumulated by relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s then-prime minister, the paper said.

The report was the first in a series of contemporaneous disclosures about similar intrusions or attempted intrusions at other US media organisations, including Bloomberg, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

According to Mike McLellan, director of intelligence at cyber security firm Secureworks, which has tracked China-linked spying on media organisations on-and-off over the past decade, Beijing's hackers have been targeting Western journalists for years.

McLellan added that journalists might have access to valuable sources of intelligence about China's adversaries or its domestic opponents.

Even considered against China's reputation for aggressive cyber espionage against a range of targets – from military secrets to intellectual property – McLellan explained media remained a favourite.

"Journalists and the things they're working on are fairly high on their list of priorities," McLellan concluded.

[Related: Juniper Networks launches a new cloud-delivered security solution]

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