Journalists are as a tribe, looked at suspiciously by just about everyone, regardless of political belief, sexual orientation, religion, or anything else you can think of. The suspicion arises from the simple fact that even a low-level scribe for even a small newspaper can cause a lot of “damage” to a person or institution. This perceived threat of journalists stems from the power that they have, by virtue of their profession. Hence, it is no surprise that everyone who has any kind of power is naturally suspicious of a journalist. After all, investigative journalism is one of the most dangerous jobs a person can do. What does this mean from a cybersecurity standpoint? Simple; it means all journalists, well known or not, have to keep looking over their shoulders and take necessary precautions.
In this day and age, it is no longer enough just to have good virus protection on a computer or smartphone. The creative ways, determined hackers use to get into people’s information is quite astounding. The following are some stats that support this notion.
- Out of the top 25 news organizations in the world, 21 of them have been hacked in the last ten years.
- Many hackers operate under the protection of governments. For example, Russian hackers made it into the computers of over 200 journalists in 2015 alone, and many of them were US-based journalist.
- A few years ago, over 1500 journalists, activists, and politicians in India suffered cyber attacks just on their Whatsapp accounts.
- In 2019, nine Mexican journalists suffered hacks, and one of them even got killed, when hackers discovered what the journalist was investigating.
What many of these hacks, especially the ones that happened in India and Mexico have in common, is that they were hacked using a complex piece of software known as “Pegasus”. What makes Pegasus very dangerous is that once it makes its way into a smartphone, it will have access to all your data. Not only that, but the person behind the attack will also even be able to control the phone’s camera and microphone! Pegasus allows the user to listen in on your phone conversation and steal all your data without you even realizing it.
The malware is known as Pegasus usually enters phones and computers, when you download a file or open a message with suspicious origins. It can even enter a phone if you happen to answer a phone call with dubious origins. The only way to guarantee Pegasus does not enter your computer systems is only to download software from safe origins, and not open suspicious files. Pegasus is capable of evading most antivirus software and firewalls.
The Disturbing Case of Russian Journalist Pavel Lobkov
Pavel Lobkov is a Russian journalist, who gained fame for being openly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Part of the reason why Lobkov was critical of Putin is because of Russia’s anti-gay stance, which made him a prime target for hacking by Russian authorities. The sequence of events that led up to Lobkovs hacking experience and its fallout is as follows:
- After Lobkov discovered he was gay and let it be known to friends and family, he was sent for “conversion” therapy to become heterosexual, as per the rules of the Russian government.
- After Lobkov got diagnosed as HIV positive in 2003, doctors would not treat him.
- In 2015, Lobkov clicked on a phishing email, and his accounts became compromised
- With the hope of starting a public conversation about HIV and hoping the public would accept his homosexuality, in 2015, Lobkov announced to the public that he was HIV positive.
- A few days after he made the announcement, his Facebook account got hacked, and its contents were made public.
If you think that this is how things are in Russia, then think again. Russians also hacked American journalist Masha Gessen’s account. Gessen may have been a target since she has authored a book about Russian President Putin. The Russian hacking group named “The Fancy Bear Group” is believed to be behind the attacks of over 200 journalists, including Gessen.
SKY ECC and the World of Phishing
Phishing emails are a relatively common and easy scam to fall for. Think of it as a situation where an intruder, posing as a friend or protector, contacts you and says, “your house has been broken into, and I need your key to get in and chase out the intruder.” If you fall for it, then the intruder now has the necessary tools to get into your house and lock you out. Phishing scams work much in the same way. You may get a notice from the scammer informing you that your systems are hacked, and you need to re-login to your systems. Once you do, they now have your passwords.
The following are ways in which if Lobkov, Gessen, and hundreds of other journalists could have protected themselves had they used SKY ECC’s systems.
- SKY ECC supplies its own devices and systems. Only one person can log in and access it. Which means, there is no way a third party can access it. If someone tried, then you, the user, would be immediately notified. The only way an unauthorized person could access your info is if they had the physical device, and they somehow got your login information, which is an impossibility.
- Messages sent through SKY ECC’s systems, only last seven days. On top of this, only someone who has login info created by our encryption system would be able to see it.
- Unknown contacts simply cannot send you messages on our platform. Even if a hacker were to try and send you malicious links by disguising it as “known contact,” you will not be able to access it since only info located on our system can be opened. Therefore, accidentally clicking on phishing links is automatically not an issue.
- In all the above examples, the journalist/activist would not have suffered hacks to their contact info, calendar, etc. if they had used SKY ECC products.
Even years later, the journalists who were victims of attacks are dealing with the consequences. Apart from journalists, diplomats, politicians and the Democratic party itself, has not been spared from hacks and its damaging fallouts. If you are still using popular communication apps, then understand that they do not offer a total protection system such as the ones offered by SKY ECC.
SKY ECC is different because all that happens in the digital communication process, from software to servers, is taken into account to give you complete protection. Newsrooms and journalists need much more advanced security, which ordinary apps just can’t provide.