News Corp Suspects China Behind Cyberattack on Its Journalists, Company Data

Xi Jinping
Chinese president Xi Jinping / Getty Images
February 4, 2022

By Eva Mathews

(Reuters)—Digital intruders broke into News Corp email accounts and compromised the data of an unspecified number of journalists, the company disclosed Friday, and the media firm's internet security adviser said the attack was likely aimed at gathering intelligence "to benefit China's interests."

News Corp, which publishes the Wall Street Journal, said the breach was discovered in late January and affected emails and documents of what it described as a limited number of employees, including journalists. It said that cybersecurity firm Mandiant had contained the breach.

"Mandiant assesses that those behind this activity have a China nexus, and we believe they are likely involved in espionage activities to collect intelligence to benefit China's interests," David Wong, vice president of consulting at Mandiant, told Reuters.

The Chinese Embassy in the United States did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a letter seen by Reuters, company executives told their employees that "we believe the activity affected a limited number of business email accounts and documents from News Corp headquarters, News Technology Services, Dow Jones, News UK, and New York Post."

"Our preliminary analysis indicates that foreign government involvement may be associated with this activity, and that some data was taken."

The company added that its other business units, including HarperCollins Publishers, Move, News Corp Australia, Foxtel, REA, and Storyful, were not targeted in the attack. Its shares were down 1.3% in morning trading. The Wall Street Journal, which reported the news first, competes with Reuters, the news division of Thomson Reuters Corp, in supplying news to media outlets.

Chinese hackers have repeatedly been blamed for hacks of journalists both in the United States and elsewhere.

In 2013, for example, the New York Times reported a breach which it said had affected 53 personal computers belonging to its employees.

The paper said that the timing of the intrusions corresponded with its investigation into the wealth accumulated by relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s then-prime minister.

The Times said Chinese hackers had also broken into the computers of Bloomberg employees in 2012, after the news agency published a story about the relatives of China's now-leader, Xi Jinping.

At the time, Bloomberg confirmed that its systems were targeted but said its systems were not compromised.

Published under: China