News Corp was the target of a hack that accessed emails and documents of journalists and other employees, an incursion the company’s cybersecurity consultant said was likely meant to gather intelligence to benefit China’s interests.
The attack, discovered on Jan. 20, affected a number of publications and business units including The Wall Street Journal and its parent Dow Jones; the New York Post; the company’s U.K. news operation; and News Corp headquarters, according to an email the company sent to staff Friday.
News Corp said it notified law enforcement and hired cybersecurity firm to support an investigation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is aware of the incident.
The attackers appeared to be interested in a range of topics, including issues of importance to Beijing such as Taiwan and China’s Uyghur ethnic group, according to other people briefed on the matter and a review of some of the document target lists. Other areas of interest included draft Journal articles and notes about U.S. military troop activity, U.S. technology regulation related to China, and articles about President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and senior White House officials.
The hackers also searched using keywords for emails related to traditional intelligence areas, including defense, one person familiar with the ongoing investigation said. Those searches in some cases appeared to be prompted by contemporary news developments. “They would come back periodically,” this person said.
Law-enforcement officials and cybersecurity experts say that journalists are often high-priority targets for hackers seeking to gain intelligence on behalf of foreign governments, because they speak to sources who might have valuable or sensitive information. Powerful surveillance tools have been used against journalists and human-rights activists.