What a week: disclosure of compromises at the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. A Java update released on a Friday evening 18 days early due to active exploitation. Twitter compromised affecting 250k users, including me. I may have more to say about the Twitter compromise later.
I’ve assumed for some time that state-sponsored attackers have long targeted major media outlets, especially those who regularly report on national security issues. While we don’t need to start putting on tinfoil hats, the ill-fated Wikileaks partnership with the NYT should have provided a pretty obvious starting point for people to think about these issues. Even more obviously, at least to me, journalists have had to take OPSEC seriously for a very long time, whether due to drug cartels or US presidents unhappy with political and legal revelations. I wouldn’t characterize these incidents as an assault on our way of life, exactly, because the Fourth Estate has always had conflicts with power. We should become far more suspicious when governments don’t concern themselves with the press, because that says something about their relationships with it or, perhaps, their views of popular opinion.
Others have criticized the reporting and the completeness of the stories. For what it’s worth, as noted above, I certainly don’t think claiming that governments have tried to attack journalists really presents an extraordinary claim. And I have seen enough evidence first-hand to believe that Chinese-based actors actively exploit networks around the world. Combining the two, we know how the Chinese government regards free speech and a free press.
But if you want us to believe that this represents the greatest transfer of wealth in history and all the other hyperbole that surrounds discussion of “the APT” and “China” and “cyberwar”, you need to present evidence. Declassify it, make it public, show it to the American people. If you’re a news outlet dedicated to informing the public, give us the facts. When the government wants to make a case for war, it discusses specific incidents and presents intelligence. If we face such a great threat, don’t just assert the threat, prove it. (Note: I don’t actually expect any of this to happen.)
Whether the intelligence will amount to proof, however, remains to be seen.