What China’s Hacking Proves About Data Journalism and Security

Yesterday, the New York Times released a report indicating that their systems had been repeatedly breached by Chinese hackers over a period of four months, particularly stealing reporters’ passwords and looking up information related to one of the Chinese government’s top leaders, Premier Wen Jiabao. Later, the Wall Street Journal admitted that their systems experienced similar attacks from Chinese sources, and hinted that the motivations could have been similar.

More than anything, the attacks on these papers from mysterious foreign sources hunting for information sheds light on one clear and important point:

Now, more than ever, publishing outlets need to have protection against cyberattacks.

Within the last few years, hackers have gained valuable and oftentimes damaging information by exploiting security flaws of large companies and even the government. It’s become easier than ever to hack into major network systems from anywhere on the globe, largely due to the increasing sophistication of malware, keyloggers and server routing. The Times said that their system was a victim of a malicious hardware install that gathered the passwords of the reporters organically, allowing the hackers to walk through the proverbial front door and take the information they sought.

This incident is proof that publications can be targeted for their information, not just their money, and it should inspire all publications to enhance their own security measures. This one isn’t a disaster for the books the way that  Sony or even The Pentagon faced in years prior, but an adequate first-response cybersecurity system  is key to protect secrets and ensure information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

What do you think about cybersecurity’s role in the digital journalism world? Let us know in the comments.