​Asia’s news agencies now prime targets in cyber espionage

Cyber attackers are targeting media companies throughout South East Asia in an apparent bid to undermine news outlets and uncover their sources, new research by SingTel and FireEye has found.

The attacks were part of a wider and growing trend in which hackers were increasingly being recruited by organisations pursuing geopolitical agendas, the research found.

The researchers analysed cyber attacks throughout the region in the six months to June 2015 and found that media, entertainment and hospitality accounted for a third of all malware attacks detected using advanced persistent threat technologies.

Attacks on government entities accounted for 25 per cent of malware-based attacks in the region.

SingTel and FireEye’s report contained an account of Chinese hackers targeting an Asian news service with spear phishing malware in an apparent bid to get early warning of negative press.

“The media company may have been targeted because it had published commentary supportive of an opposition group. The cyber threat group may also have sought information that would help authorities monitor public opinion and gain advanced notice of articles that portrayed the government negatively,” the companies wrote in their report.

Eric Hoh, FireEye Asia Pacific and Japan president said that Southeast Asia was becoming a hot spot for politically driven online espionage.

“Geopolitics can drive cyber attacks. As Southeast Asia becomes a larger economic player on the world stage and tensions flare in the South China Sea, organizations should be prepared for targeted attacks,” Mr Hoh said.

The report found that 29 per cent of FireEye customers in South East Asia had been targeted for malware attacks.

Read more: The week in security: Security strategies evolving as new (and old) threats persist

Activity was highest in Hong Kong and Taiwan with 50 per cent and 48 per cent of FireEye customers detecting target malware attacks. Thailand was next highest with 40 per cent and Australia was the eighth most targeted country with 35 per cent of customers targeted.

William Woo, Singtel’s Enterprise Data and Managed Services chief said: “The report emphasizes the frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks against all types of industries and enterprises in the region. The risk of attack, faced by regional enterprises, is higher than the global average. Therefore these enterprises must make it a priority to reinforce their cyber defences”.

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Tags hackersCyber attackerscyber threatscyber espionageFireEyesingtelCSO Australia​Asia’s newsEric Hoh

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