Google Research Show Journalists, Media Target Of Hackers

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Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) security engineers, in a research note, have cautioned that twenty-one of the world’s top-25 news organizations have been the victim of the state-sponsored hacking activities. The research paper was discussed at the Black Hat hacker’s conference in Singapore on Friday.

Most attacks go unreported

Presently, it a common thing for internet users to face hacking attacks through emails devised to steal the personal data, however, journalists were “massively over-represented” among the attacks, according to Shane Huntley, a security software engineer at Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG).

In interviews, Huntley and co-author Morgan Marquis-Boire said that the hacking activities came primarily from hackers working for or supporting a government, and journalists were the main targets.

Huntley told Reuters, “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.”

According to Huntley, recently, Chinese hackers breached the security of a major Western news organization through a fake questionnaire emailed to an employee. The name of the Western news organization has been kept secret. A majority of the attacks include tempting emails carrying malware or taking users to another website designed to trick users into giving secret information.

Marquis-Boire said that such kind of hacking incidents are not new. Their research showed that the number of attacks on media organizations and journalists that went unreported was much higher than the attacks reported.

How Google tracks such attacks

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) team members revealed no information on how they track such attacks, but said they track the state sponsored attack targeted towards Google users. Google’s Gmail service sends a warning message to users who receive such attacks.

In a tweet earlier, Ashkan Soltani, a security researcher, said that nine of the top-25 news websites use hosted email services from Google. The list is derived from the traffic volumes measured by Alexa, which is a web research firm owned by Amazon.

VirusTotal, a website that scans files and websites for malicious content, is owned by Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG).

Last year, many U.S. news organizations faced hacking attacks. Forbes, the Financial Times and the New York Times have faced attacks from the Syrian Electronic Army, which is a group in support of the government.

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