In the latest disturbing account of Russian hacking, the FBI is reportedly investigating a series of cyber-attacks targeted at journalists from the New York Times and other U.S. media outlets. UPDATE: A story in the Times says the original report by CNN is exaggerated:
News of the hacking comes via CNN. Neither the FBI or the New York Times has confirmed it. But the news network cites unnamed government officials who paint a troubling picture:
The intrusions, detected in recent months, are under investigation by the FBI and other US security agencies. […] The Times has brought in private sector security investigators who are working with US national security officials to assess the damage and determine how the hackers got in, according to the US officials.
The report also says U.S. officials regard the attack on the New York Times journalists as part of a broader cyber-offensive by Russia, which includes hacks on the Democratic National Committee. Some speculate that Russia’s efforts to steal such confirmation could be part of a broader attempt to meddle with U.S. domestic politics ahead of the Presidential elections:
Attacks of this nature could allow hackers to obtain confidential communications between reporters and their sources in the government. It could also potentially allow Russia to release information, which would embarrass key political leaders as well as obtain insight into U.S. diplomatic or military strategies.
While the Kremlin has not endorsed either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, the bulk of the cyber-attacks appear so far to have been directed at Democrats. (The New York Times is regarded by many as sympathetic to the Democratic party.) At the same time, news outlets have pointed to common political styles between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to suggest an affinity between the two men.
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Meanwhile, Russia is also the mostly likely suspect behind last week’s “Shadow Brokers” incident, in which hackers published a top-secret set of cyber-weapons developed by the NSA. This is not the first time the New York Times has been hacked. In 2013, it incurred breaches attributed to China and a group known as the Syrian Liberation Army.
This story was updated at 7pm ET to cite the New York Times.