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State-sponsored attacks--open season on online journalists

(CPJ/IFEX) - June 8, 2012 - The following is a CPJ Blog post:

By Danny O'Brien/CPJ Internet Advocacy Coordinator

The last few weeks have offered the strongest indications yet that nation-states such as US, Israel and China, are using customized software to exploit security flaws on personal computers and consumer Internet services to spy on their users. The countries suspected include the United States, Israel, and China. Journalists should pay attention--not only because this is a growing story, but because if anyone is a vulnerable target, it's reporters.

Last week, The New York Times's David Sanger quoted several U.S. government contacts who said Stuxnet, the virus suspected of targeting Iranian nuclear centrifuges, was in fact part of a secret U.S. government project. This week Google placed warnings on a number of Gmail accounts that they had been targeted by what Google indicated was a "state-sponsored attack" (Google would not indicate why it thought this was the case). And a new piece of malware, over 20 megabytes in size, coined "Flame' by its discoverers at Kasperky Lab, has been tracked as being concentrated in the Middle East, and bears the hallmarks of a state-directed operation.

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