Washington media websites hit by cyber attacks

By Danny Palmer
08 May 2013 View Comments
A view of Washington DC

Several media outlets in the Washington DC area have had their websites hacked and used to spread malware.

WTOP, the largest radio station in the region, and Federal News Radio, along with the website of technology blogger John Dvorak were all infected by a waterhole attack. A waterhole attack is when a popular website is covertly injected with malware, and then goes on to infect users who visit it.

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The attack on the Washington websites used a specific exploit which targeted third-party Java or Adobe browser plug-ins. That redirected users to another location that encouraged them to install a "scareware" scam anti-virus software program called Amsecure, infecting the target with malware.

According to a statement by WTOP, the infection is only a risk to those using Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, with users of other unaffected.

"WTOP.com is currently dealing with a malicious cyber attack, which attempts to use our site to infect computers with malware when using the Internet Explorer (IE) browser," said the statement.

"To help protect our website visitors and prevent any further damage, we have blocked access to WTOP.com from Internet Explorer. We believe Chrome, Firefox and Safari are safe alternatives, and suggest you use one of these browsers to access the WTOP website."

At the time of writing, the radio stations are still performing an analysis to ensure their websites are free of malicious software.

"We take cyber security very seriously, and ensuring that our listeners and readers can safely come to our site is of the utmost importance," said Lisa Wolfe, program director of Federal News Radio.

There's no indication about the source of the attacks, although the targeting of Federal News Radio, a station for government employees, could indicate an attempt by hackers to steal information from the US government.

Neither radio station has indicated how many users could have been affected or how the hack was actually detected.

The media has increasingly come under attack from cyber criminals, with The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and The Onion all recent victims of computer hackers. Earlier this month, Twitter warned that hackers will continue to target the media.

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