June 17, 2013

CBS News announced on Friday that the computer of investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson’s computer had registered multiple breaches, a disclosure that prompted a great deal of speculation about just who was responsible for the misbehavior. In a short segment today on “CBS This Morning,” Attkisson lent a personal touch to the story.

The primary takeaway? That Attkisson’s hardware sort of “woke up” in the middle of the night. When asked how the hacking manifested itself, she said, “One example was the computers began turning themselves on and then back off again during the night.”

Creepy, huh?

As to who may have orchestrated the intrusions, Attkisson said, “We’re not prepared to talk more about the who’s and who did this today, but the intruder is considered highly skilled.”

Cedric Leighton, a former deputy director of training at the National Security Agency (NSA), cautions against reaching too many conclusions on the sophistication of the intruder(s). “It’s sloppy work in the realm of hackerdom,” says Leighton. “If you’re going to do something like that, you try not to leave anything behind. You try to make sure that you don’t do anything different than what the user is doing.” At the same time, says Leighton, the off-peak-hours intrusions could be a sign of a foreign hacking expedition. “Keep in mind that midnight here is about noon in Beijing,” says Leighton, referring to the possibility of a Chinese hacking attack against Attkisson. “It’s not conclusive proof, but it’s possible that it’s not from here.”

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