Its the truth behind the U.S newspaper hacks

I was never worried about the President undermining the free press in the United States.  He has berated their coverage and referred to their output as “fake news.” My ease is based on the fact we have a robust online delivery of information and event feeds.  Even the average citizen is a reporter these days. However, the recent cyber attack on print news gives me pause. The newspaper and online information foundation are a critical representation of our freedom.  This is why adherence to cyber practices to manage risks must be put on the forefront by all news outlets.

The recent attack on prominent newspapers proves organizations don’t see themselves as potential victims until they are victims.  This attitude will be the death of us and traditional news providers. Networks and systems to move information and print newspapers can be reestablished and risks managed.  However, the owning entity must decide security is important.

This issue that bites me is the risk corporations are willing to take when it comes to cybersecurity and protecting mission essential functions.  Malware disrupted the operations of major newspapers across the country this week. The organizations affected include the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles Times Chicago Tribune and several other media outlets.  The attack was said to originate outside of the U.S., but the sophisticated hacker is understanding how to create whatever illusion they would like to portray. And, if the attack disrupts our way of life does it matter if it came from outside of the country?

The attack appears to be a ransomware related incident.  The malware favors a strain identified by Checkpoint Security in the summer of 2018.  The main disruption was in production. The papers believe the attack was not geared to stealing data but admit they don’t know the true motivation.  The truth may come out over the next two weeks. Or, as many cyber incidents tell us, it may never be known.

The hackers interfered with the inner-workings of software systems and essentially shut down capabilities related to storing news stories and other media.  As we have seen in some attacks, it very well could have been a test. The attack could also have been an incident related to a failure to use the best practices ascribed to being secure and resilient.  We may never know the truth, but each organization better assure they will do better in the future.

The Department of Homeland Security said, “We are aware of reports of a potential cyber incident affecting several news outlets and are working with our government and industry partners to better understand the situation.”  This approach is sound. However, this is further proof that the Government can’t protect every entity. The follow-up or identification of how an attack occurred is great for putting systems in place in the future. The key is not to be a victim now.  

We clearly have enough information to protect critical infrastructure, but owners and operators need to decide how much risk is too much.  Essentially, the government can’t force the implementation of specific perimeter tools and workforce training. The entity needs to care about the consequences.  To do this requires an organization to understand the components of risk.

We are all connected, and the parts that make us a great nation all matter independently.  The press has a special role in our democracy. The owners of those outlets need to understand this as well as they understand their rights to freedom of speech.  

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