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China suspected in cyberattack on News Corp; journalists’ data stolen

Typing on a computer. (Dreamstime/TNS)
February 04, 2022

Hackers believed to be linked to the Chinese Communist Party hit NYC-based New Corp with a cyberattack, accessing the emails and documents of a number of employees, including journalists.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the cyberattack was discovered on Jan. 20, and impacted several publications and businesses, including the Journal, Dow Jones, the New York Post, the company’s U.K news operation, and News Corp headquarters.

Staff was alerted to the hack via a company email on Friday.

News Corp said law enforcement was immediately notified and the cybersecurity firm Mandiant Inc. was hired to help with an investigation.

“Mandiant assesses that those behind this activity have a China nexus, and we believe they are likely involved in espionage activities to collect intelligence to benefit China’s interests,” said David Wong, vice president of Mandiant’s incident response.

In its message to News Corp personnel, the company said that while it believes data was taken, the threat activity is now believed to be contained.

“We are committed to protecting our journalists and sources. We will not be deterred from our purpose—to provide uniquely trusted journalism and analysis. We will continue to publish the important stories of our time,” said Almar Latour, chief executive of Dow Jones and publisher of The Wall Street Journal.

A person familiar with the matter said the investigation shows financial and customer data – including subscriber information – were not affected by the hack.  

Journalists are frequently considered high-priority targets for foreign hackers looking for intelligence, officials and cybersecurity experts said.

News of the hack comes just days after FBI Director Christopher Wray warned the Chinese government’s threat to the West is “more brazen” and impactful than it has ever been.

During a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Wray slammed the Chinese government for stealing American ideas and innovation just days before the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

“When we tally up what we see in our investigations, over 2,000 of which are focused on the Chinese government trying to steal our information or technology, there’s just no country that presents a broader threat to our ideas, innovation, and economic security than China,” Wray said, according to a copy of the speech reviewed by The Associated Press.

Wray said new cases countering Chinese intelligence operations are opened by the FBI every 12 hours, as Chinese government hackers gather more personal and corporate data than every other country combined.

“The harm from the Chinese government’s economic espionage isn’t just that its companies pull ahead based on illegally gotten technology. While they pull ahead, they push our companies and workers behind,” Wray said. “That harm — company failures, job losses — has been building for a decade to the crush we feel today. It’s harm felt across the country, by workers in a whole range of industries.”