June 14, 2013
Sharyl Attkisson
Sharyl Attkisson (John P. Filo/CBS News)

CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson revealed in May that her computer had been compromised. When asked about the situation, CBS News responded with a statement that it was conducting an investigation.

That investigation has reached the following conclusions, according to CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair:

“A cyber security firm hired by CBS News has determined through forensic analysis that Sharyl Attkisson’s computer was accessed by an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions late in 2012. Evidence suggests this party performed all access remotely using Attkisson’s accounts. While no malicious code was found, forensic analysis revealed an intruder had executed commands that appeared to involve search and exfiltration of data.

This party also used sophisticated methods to remove all possible indications of unauthorized activity, and alter system times to cause further confusion.

CBS News is taking steps to identify the responsible party and their method of access.”

The Attkisson-computer story surfaced when Attkisson appeared on a Philadelphia radio program amid the news about the Justice Department’s snooping on reporters. WPHT 1210 host Chris Stigall asked Attkisson whether she’d been the victim of any such tactics. She responded, “Well, um, I’m not ready to fully speak publicly about some things that have affected me because I’m trying to be methodical and careful about what I say, but there has been an issue in my house and there’s been an issue with my computers that’s gone on for quite a long time that we’re looking into.”

The CBS News reporter was then asked whether her issue related to the experience of Fox News reporter James Rosen, who’d been the target of Justice Department snooping. She responded: “Well, I don’t know details of his — I only know what I’ve read but I think there could be some relationship between these types of things and what’s happened to me.”

That wasn’t a loud-mouthed affirmation, but rather a suggestion that her computer troubles could be the work of an overreaching U.S. government. Attkisson later pulled back a touch, clarifying that she wasn’t ready to identify a “specific entity.”

Eugene H. Spafford, a Purdue University professor and specialist in computer security, said that Attkisson’s initial statements about computer intrusions left open a wide field of possibilities, from viruses to botnet activity to acquaintances to criminal gangs to the government. The Erik Wemple Blog asked Spafford for his take after looking over the CBS News statement. “The details given are too sparse to really be able to say anything new,” he responded.

The Justice Department issued this statement not long after Attkisson’s claims:

To our knowledge, the Justice Department has never compromised Ms. Attkisson’s computers, or otherwise sought any information from or concerning any telephone, computer, or other media device she may own or use.

 

 

 

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Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.