GUEST ESSAY: NewsCorp hack shows cyber espionage, squelching of press freedom on the rise

As the mud settles following the not too long ago disclosed hack of NewsCorp, essential classes are rising for the cybersecurity and journalism communities.

Related: How China challenged Google in Operation Aurora

The Chinese authorities is well-known for its censorship– and frequent harassment and intimidation of international journalists. These are the foremost causes China is ranked fourth worst globally relating to press freedoms.

China has enclosed its nationwide web servers inside what’s colloquially referred to as ‘the Great Firewall.’ This firewall even goes so far as to dam the newest variations of the encryption service TLS (v1.3) as a result of it places mechanisms in place to forestall third events from decrypting site visitors.

Internationally, there isn’t any doubt that this predominantly serves to facilitate the detection and blocking of matters delicate to the Chinese Communist Party, akin to the occasions of June 4, 1989, in Tiananmen Square. The latest Western reporting on the Uyghur internment camps in Xinjiang triggered additional sensitivity round how the worldwide group views the Chinese Communist Party’s home insurance policies.

In a latest statement, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) commented, “Covering China is more and more changing into an train in distant reporting, as China cuts off new visas and expels journalists.” Only 4 % of respondents to an FCC poll stated their group acquired a brand new J-1 visa in 2021, and 46 % stated their bureaus have been understaffed as a result of of an absence of visas.

Even these bodily in China more and more face obstruction as they examine their tales. This ‘distant journalism’ largely depends on entry to in-country sources, usually Chinese nationals keen to share their day-to-day experiences with international reporters.


If the Chinese authorities can’t stop a narrative from being printed exterior of the nation, it could possibly act towards sources. Identifying sources has develop into a device in countering the anti-China narrative in the international press, and it acts as a strong disincentive to anybody inside China who would possibly contemplate talking to a international journalist.

Like many organizations and industries, NewsCorp migrated its digital property to make larger use of the cloud, together with leveraging SaaS suppliers like Google Workspaces to host e mail infrastructure.

Migrating from on-premises infrastructure to the cloud has substantial advantages, together with elevated effectivity, capabilities, and cost-savings. But it additionally has a substantial draw back. If your workers can log on to the web to entry their emails, so can an attacker. These dangerous actors are now not constrained by the have to entry a bodily gadget in an workplace location.

For organizations which have made that leap, sticking with a easy username and password to guard a globally accessible e mail server is far from adequate. Password leaks are commonplace. Employees usually reuse passwords between different providers and accounts. Credential harvesting assaults through phishing emails are actually a each day incidence. With these components compounded, it’s solely a matter of time earlier than an attacker acquires an e mail deal with and password and may merely log in—no have to hack; no want to use a zero-day vulnerability.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a strong protection from these types of assaults, limiting the use of a username and password to the particular person who possesses the bodily key. MFA is a should for organizations utilizing SaaS for e mail.

MFA may be difficult to implement for some organizations from a expertise or price perspective or attributable to person pushback. In some instances, there have been assaults towards MFA programs concentrating on the firms that make them or exploiting the underlying expertise. MFA, nonetheless helpful, isn’t any silver bullet.

From a detecting and monitoring perspective, figuring out what’s and isn’t a reliable person log-on occasion may be troublesome, usually reliant on attackers mounting their heists from identified dangerous infrastructure on the web, infrastructure identified as a result of programs caught attackers utilizing it earlier than. But this leaves safety groups powerless to cease novel threats and zero-days.

Some mitigation methods rely on merely blocking huge swathes of the web, based mostly on the nation from which the IP deal with allegedly exists – however even geolocation of an IP deal with is extra artwork than science, and this heavy-handed safety can drawback a global enterprise. In the case of NewsCorp, blocking entry to any IP deal with believed to be in China would make reporting remotely much more difficult.

We have entered a brand new period of cyber threats. If measured as a rustic, cybercrime would possess the third-largest economic system in the world, behind the U.S. and China. Cyber instruments now undoubtedly play a job in worldwide espionage, and final month, NewsCorp bore the brunt of cyber-attackers utilizing the most subtle instruments of their arsenal to breach its digital property. 

About the essayist: Toby Lewis is Global Head of Threat Analysis at Darktrace, which provides expertise that applies Self-Learning AI to allow machines to grasp the enterprise so as to autonomously defend it.

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated weblog from The Last Watchdog authored by bacohido. Read the authentic publish at:

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