Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, owner of the Wall Street Journal, is investigating a cyber attack that it suspects was linked to China and accessed journalists’ emails and documents.
“We appear to have been the target of persistent nation-state attack activity that affected a limited number of our employees,” according to an email sent to News Corp staff and viewed by the Financial Times.
The people behind the attack “are likely involved in espionage activities to collect intelligence to benefit China’s interests”, News Corp’s chief technology officer, David Kline, said in the internal email.
The company discovered the breach on January 20 and said the hackers accessed documents from News Corp headquarters, Dow Jones, News UK and the New York Post. It hired Mandiant, a cyber security company, to investigate.
“We will not tolerate attacks on our journalism, nor will we be deterred from our reporting,” said Kline.
Kline said he believed the attack was “contained” but warned that the company was “in the early stages of our investigation”.
The White House last year accused the Chinese government of teaming up with criminal gangs to commit widespread cyber attacks on US companies and government agencies. US president Joe Biden last year warned that cyber attacks could escalate into a “real shooting war”.
This week, the FBI said the Chinese government had unleashed a “massive, sophisticated hacking programme that is bigger than those of every other major nation combined”.
In 2013, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times reported they had been hacked by China.
China has a historically fraught relationship with western journalists. The situation had escalated in recent years as relations between Beijing and Washington chilled during the Trump administration.
In February 2020, the Chinese government expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters after the publication ran an opinion piece headlined: “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia”.
The following month, China revoked press credentials of US journalists at the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, barring them from reporting anywhere in China, including Hong Kong and Macau.
The US and China last year eased some of their restrictions on foreign journalists operating in the two countries.