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Another suspected hack by Russian cyber spies — this one aimed at reporters at the New York Times and other outlets — reportedly has federal authorities investigating whether sensitive sources or information may have been compromised.
Neither the FBI nor the New York Times would confirm the investigation, which was first reported yesterday by CNN.
The cyberattacks are believed to have targeted individual reporters, but investigators don’t believe the newspaper’s whole network was affected, the Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed U.S. official who was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“Newspapers are good target because reporters have access to people that a Russian agent can’t get access to,” said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert and senior vice president and program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The attack reportedly focused on the individual email accounts of several reporters and not on the newspaper’s entire computer system. It has not been reported what information was obtained through the breach, or whether any sensitive source identities were revealed.
In a statement, Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said the paper is “vigilant about guarding against attempts to hack into our systems.”
“There are a variety of approaches we take, up to and including working with outside investigators and law enforcement,” Murphy said. “We won’t comment on any specific attempts to gain unauthorized access to The Times.”
The newspaper breach represents the latest in a series of high-profile computer system probes that federal officials have linked to Russian actors. Earlier this month a hacker called Guccifer 2.0, which claims to be Romanian but which federal officials say has ties to the Russian government, posted personal and work email and phone numbers of Democratic congressional staffers online.
Last month, a breach of the Democratic National Committee server, which the FBI also attributed to Russian intelligence agencies, and subsequent posting of embarrassing internal emails during the Democratic convention led to the resignation of several DNC officials, including former chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Russia is also suspected of being behind a number of other breaches of federal agencies, Republican and Democratic organizations and private companies in recent months.
The breaches of Democratic sites, coupled with Russian business ties to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, led to claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to swing the election to Trump, a claim the real estate mogul denies.
The breaches raised concerns that foreign hackers will try to hack the computer systems of the parties and their candidates to embarrass officials or sway voters before November. Lewis called such a motivation “a stretch,” but said that the increase in frequency of hacks is “dangerous.”
“The Russians seem to be pushing the limits,” Lewis said. “It should worry us that they don’t feel as constrained as they felt a year ago. That is really dangerous.”