Hackers increasingly targeting the press, says advocacy group

By Danny Palmer
15 Feb 2013 View Comments

Media organisations and journalists are coming under increasingly regular cyber-attacks, with hacking being used as a tool to censor the press.

"We have seen distributed denial of service attacks against individual journalists and against individual news outlets increasing over the last few years," Robert Mahoney, deputy director of advocacy group The Committee to Protect Journalists, told a press conference.

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He described cyber-crimes, such as denial-of-service attacks, as a cheap and easy way to censor the press. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post are all prominent publications that have recently come under attack from suspected Chinese hackers.

"They are becoming increasingly sophisticated, it's very cheap to hire criminal hackers to mount such a distributed denial of service attack and digital security, information security is vital," said Mahoney.

He also said that lesser-known media organisations and even individual journalists have been the subject to cyber-attacks, especially in the developing world.

"We have reports in places in Africa and Asia of journalists coming under attack, even in North Africa, even before the 'Arab Spring' there were attacks against news outlets in Tunisia, for example.

"We have seen whole newspapers brought down in countries like Ethiopia because there's been an attack," he added.

Mahoney argued that governments must do all they can to prevent attacks and bring those perpetrating the crimes to justice.

"The battle to control information is an assault on public accountability that cannot go unchallenged. Governments must prosecute perpetrators and stop those seeking to incapacitate public oversight by blunting critical and probing reporting.

"The right to receive and impart information transcends borders, and international and regional bodies have a key role to play in upholding these principles, which are under attack," he told reporters.

Hackers have increasingly become a problem for all organisations, especially in an age when so much important infrastructure relies on IT systems. This week, the risk of cyber-crimes saw US President Barack Obama sign a new cyber security executive order.

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