New York Times Attacked by Chinese Hackers

Dennis Faas's picture

In the past, someone upset by a newspaper article would write a letter of complaint to the editor. But The New York Times (NYT) says Chinese hackers have unleashed a campaign of cyber attacks in response to an article about Chinese leader Wen Jiabo.

Though the hackers haven't publicly explained their actions, NYT staff believe the attacks are a response to an article published in October 2012 about Jiabao. The story reported that his relatives had made billions of dollars in business deals. (Source:

The attackers gained access to New York Times computers through malicious software. Not only was that software produced in China, but an investigation showed that the attack was launched from a Chinese university.

Investigations also showed the attacks took place at times that match up with work hours in the Beijing time zone.

Hackers Target Specific Writers

Although the hackers were able to get hold of databases containing passwords for every NYT employee, they only used this information to access the machines of those involved in the Wen Jiabao story.

As the hackers didn't appear to do any damage or steal any personal information about the journalists, the most likely explanation is that the hackers were trying to find clues that could identify the sources used for the story.

While not widely publicised at the time, it appears Chinese hackers also tried to access Bloomberg computer systems in 2012. It's believed that attack can be linked to a story about the family finances of another Chinese official, Xi Jinping, who is expected to become the country's president in March 2013. (Source:

Past Attacks Spread Misinformation

This isn't the first time the news media has been hit by cyber attack. Last summer, a Reuters Twitter account was hacked, most likely by supporters of the Syrian government.

The account, which covered technology news, was renamed to make it appear as though it was operated by a Reuters correspondent based in the Middle East. It was then flooded with fake stories.

In May 2011 pranksters hacked the PBS website and published a bogus report claiming that deceased rapper Tupac Shakur had been found living in New Zealand.

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