Hackers Move From Retail to Media, CNN

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Hackers roam the Internet world, seemingly randomly. One week the U.S. government gets hacked. The next it is defense contractors. The hackers apparently operate in China, North Korea, Syria and parts unknown (maybe even within the United States). They are hard to find, which means they are hard to shut down or defend against. The most visible hack of the past several months was the one on Target Corp. (NASDAQ: TGT), which compromised more than 70 million customer accounts. Target’s problems have barely moved off the front pages and hackers have returned to a battle with media sites. Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) division CNN ran the headline “Some CNN Social Media Accounts Hacked.”

Some of CNN’s social media accounts and blogs were compromised Thursday.

The affected accounts included CNN’s main Facebook account, CNN Politics’ Facebook account and the Twitter pages for CNN and CNN’s Security Clearance. Blogs for Political Ticker, The Lead, Security Clearance, The Situation Room and Crossfire were also hacked.

The posts were deleted within minutes and the accounts have since been secured.

Some of the posts claimed that the Syrian Electronic Army, a group of pro-Syrian regime hackers that has aggressively targeted major news organizations and activists, was responsible.

Media is not a new target. Last August, hackers went after the flagship site of New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT). NYTimes.com was taken down twice in a matter of days.

Hacks of retailers and banks can cost consumers money, and therefore disrupt commerce and large businesses. Hacks of news sites would not seem to be so dangerous by comparison, at least as measured by the effects on the economy. However, CNN and the New York Times are news sources used by tens of millions of people, so successful hacks of their online operations lead much of the public to believe that nothing is secure. If large news sites cannot protect themselves, what is left that can be protected?

Organizations, including the FBI, have told retailers that cyberattacks will become more frequent. History shows that online security often cannot keep up with the hacking community. If that is so for banks and retailers, it is almost certainly so for the media.

Taking down online media is an unprecedented showcase for hackers, so the hacking is bound to increase. It gives the hacking community very visible bragging rights.

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