Hackers have been infiltrating The New York Times' systems for the last four months, according to the newspaper, which said criminals had stolen passwords for its reporters and other employees. The Times is pointing a finger at China.
The Times reports that it has since rid its systems of attackers and put up defenses that prevent them from re-entering. This came in the wake of tracking the hackers' movements so they could determine how best to defend against the threat.
The attack is related to China, The Times believes, because of the timing. The attacks came as the paper published an investigative report about the relatives of China Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Printed Oct. 25, the report detailed how his family had amassed a fortune worth several billion dollars.
Nothing Sensitive Lost
"Security experts hired by The Times to detect and block the computer attacks gathered digital evidence that Chinese hackers, using methods that some consultants have associated with the Chinese military in the past, breached The Times's network," Times reporter Nicole Perlroth wrote.
"They broke into the e-mail accounts of its Shanghai bureau chief, David Barboza, who wrote the reports on Mr. Wen's relatives, and Jim Yardley, The Times's South Asia bureau chief in India, who previously worked as bureau chief in Beijing."
Jill Abramson, executive director of the paper, said computer security experts found no evidence that sensitive e-mails or files from the reporting of our articles about the Wen family were accessed, downloaded or copied.
Alex Horan of Core Security told us this is not a smash-and-grab on The New York Times -- this is someone breaking into your house and living in there for four months, watching everything you do without being seen.
"Think about it. For four months, there was a group of people whose full-time job was to maintain access to The New York Times internal network and review all their e-mails, appointments and other documents," Horan said.
Anyone who has worked in customer service knows every customer complaint represents a larger group of customers who felt the same way but didn't take the initiative to speak up about it, he continued.
"The Chinese broke into The New York Times because of an article that was written. Do we really believe The New York Times is the only U.S. target? That they are not breaking into large corporations with significant R&D budgets to access research?" Horan asked.
"Frankly, if you have a cheap hacking team to steal all the R&D from your competitors, it seems like a no-brainer....You can make the same product and sell it for less money because you don't have to pay for three years of research."