Cyber attackers allegedly working for Russian intelligence have carried out a series of attacks targeting reporters at several U.S. news organizations.
This recent attack reflects a harsh reality we are facing in information security: every major news outlet is a target, and, with a major election coming up, our democracy is under attack.
The media is essentially the “intelligence” arm of mainstream culture, digging up stories, exposing truth, and having sensitive discussions that often do not disclose attribution. There’s a lot to gain from an adversarial perspective by compromising these environments.
Reporters often have the hardest job staying safe. They have to open attachments from sources, watch videos from whistle blowers, and be in the public eye themselves. Typical attack vectors often leverage malicious documents and target those in the public, so it’s absolutely no surprise that these media outlets are investigating compromise. Further, with a sophisticated actor, it’s also not surprising that these attacks can go undetected for months.
When you combine the intrusions at various government agencies, the DNC, and news outlets, there’s a huge wealth of information to collect, process, and put to use. Whether the intended action is to manipulate an election through exposing sources, understand relationships, or predict hot-button issues, the “path to profitability” from a hackers perspective is the same: compromise those who have the information then expand and collect what’s necessary. This is truly an espionage game. These are heavily armed, extremely intelligent actors who do not give up at the first roadblock.
In the wake of all the recently reported hacks, it’s time our country treat cyber security as national security. Our democracy is at risk and under attack. In fact, the upcoming presidential election could be at risk, too. If you’re thinking that we’re crazy, we’re not. It could happen, and, much like with enigma in World War II, those who have the power to manipulate often do so in ways that are just below our ability to detect those manipulations.
Addressing the inefficiencies of our cyber infrastructure should be a top issue in this year’s election cycle. The fact that it is has been, at best, a footnote in both candidates’ platforms is an indication of where our national cyber security ranks on the list of priorities.