The website for Reporters Without Borders was booby-trapped to deliver malicious software using the latest Java and Internet Explorer vulnerabilities, security vendor Avast said on Tuesday.
Reporters Without Borders, based in Paris, is an international advocate for press freedom. Avast, which discovered the site had been tampered with, said the group's profile makes it "an ideal target."
The group could not be immediately reached, but JindYich Kubec of Avast wrote: "We've contacted the [Reporters without Borders] webmaster, and the code should be already removed."
Security researchers have noticed a prevalence of hacking campaigns that seek to compromise prominent websites with a certain demographic. The hacked websites are loaded with attack code and infect computers belonging to people with specific interests in a so-called "watering hole" attack.
Reporters Without Borders' website had exploit code that used a recent Internet Explorer vulnerability (CVE-2012-4792), which has been patched. It also used a Java vulnerability (CVE-2013-0422), which was patched in Oracle Java 7 Update 11.
If a vulnerable computer visited the website while the attack was active, it would download two RATs (remote access tools), Kubec wrote.
Several vulnerabilities have been found recently in Oracle's Java programming language and framework, which is ideal for hackers to try and attack due to its broad installation on computers worldwide.
Although Microsoft quickly patched the IE vulnerability, all users may have not been updated yet, posing an opportunity for hackers. The vulnerability was present in IE 6, 7 and 8 and could be exploited by merely visiting a website, known as a drive-by download attack.
Send news tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk