News Corp, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, said Friday that it had been hacked and had data stolen from journalists and other employees, and a cybersecurity firm investigating the intrusion said Chinese intelligence-gathering was believed behind the operation.
The news company, which publishes the New York Post parent Dow Jones and the WSJ parent Dow Jones newspapers, stated that it discovered the breach Jan. 20. It also said that an investigation was underway to "determine its nature, scope and duration and impacts." It claimed that customer and financial data have not been affected so far and that operations were not being disrupted.
The company's journalists were a significant concern. Because news organizations' reporters are constantly in touch with sensitive sources, they are prime targets of the world's intelligence agencies. Newsrooms from Mexico, El Salvador, and Qatar (where Al-Jazeera is located) have been hacked using powerful spyware.
Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm that examined the hack, stated in a statement that it had "assessed that those behind the activity have a China connection and that we believe they are likely to be involved in intelligence gathering activities to benefit China's interest."
It wasn't known when hackers hacked into the network, or how much data they stole.
News Corp sent an email to employees stating that the hack "affected only a small number" of email addresses and documents from News Corp headquarters and News Technology Services.
It stated that "our highest concern is to protect our employees, including journalists and their sources" and said it believed the "threat activities are contained".
Christopher Wray, the FBI Director, stated in a speech that investigations into suspected Chinese spying operations are opened by the bureau approximately every 12 hours. The bureau has over 2,000 probes. He stated that Chinese government hackers had stolen more corporate and personal data than any other country combined.
Although state-backed Russian hacking is often the focus of media attention, U.S. officials claim that China has been stealing more personal and commercial data than ever before digital technology became mainstream.
Major newsrooms including The New York Times were previously compromised by a Chinese cyberespionage operation.
Runa Sandvik, the former director of information security for the newspaper, stated that although major newsrooms have made great strides in helping journalists navigate a digitally hostile world in recent years, these efforts are inadequate to protect against an aggressive adversary like China.
The spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
News Corp. also owns HarperCollins Publishing House, News Corp Australia, and Storyful. Employees were notified via email that they weren't targeted by hackers.