SPECIAL REPORT: When it comes to hacking, the best defense is not the best offense.
Even as the U.S. government confronts rival powers over widespread Internet espionage, it has become the biggest buyer in a burgeoning gray market where hackers and security firms sell tools for breaking into computers.
The strategy is spurring concern in the technology industry and intelligence community that Washington is in effect encouraging hacking and failing to disclose to software companies and customers the vulnerabilities exploited by the purchased hacks.
That’s because U.S. intelligence and military agencies aren’t buying the tools primarily to fend off attacks. Rather, they are using the tools to infiltrate computer networks overseas, leaving behind spy programs and cyber-weapons that can disrupt data or damage systems.
The core problem: Spy tools and cyber-weapons rely on vulnerabilities in existing software programs, and these hacks would be much less useful to the government if the flaws were exposed through public warnings. So the more the government spends on offensive techniques, the greater its interest in making sure that security holes in widely used software remain unrepaired.
Moreover, the money going for offense lures some talented researchers away from work on defense, while tax dollars may end up flowing to skilled hackers simultaneously supplying criminal groups. “The only people paying are on the offensive side,” said Charlie Miller, a security researcher at Twitter who previously worked for the National Security Agency.
The FBI and other U.S. agencies said on Tuesday they were investigating a website that posted financial and personal information about first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and other government figures as well as celebrities including singers Beyonce and Jay-Z.
Some of the information was fraudulently obtained via a commonly used website for consumer credit reports, according to Equifax Inc, which said it was launching its own internal investigation.
It was unclear how much of the data, which first appeared on the website www.exposed.su on Monday, was accurate or who posted it.
REUTERS EXCLUSIVE: Apple Inc computers were attacked by the same hackers who targeted Facebook Inc, but no data appeared to have been stolen, the company said on Tuesday in an unprecedented admission of a widespread cyber-security breach.
Facebook revealed on Friday that unidentified hackers traced to China had staged a sophisticated attack by infiltrating its employees’ laptops, but no user information was compromised.
Apple, which is working with law enforcement to track down the hackers, told Reuters that only a small number of its employees’ Macintosh computers were breached, but “there was no evidence that any data left Apple.”
The iPhone and iPad maker said it would release a software tool later on Tuesday to protect customers against the malicious software used in the attacks.
Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake, the fastest men in the world, storm over the line together in the 100-metres final of the London Olympics - a photo finish.
As they eagerly look up for the result, a political message from a rogue hacking group fills the screen as the world looks on in disbelief.
While unlikely, the task of ensuring the unthinkable does not happen falls to the Games’ IT services provider Atos .
Analysts say infiltrating the scoring and timing systems at one of the 35 competition venues around Britain, especially the Olympic stadium in east London, is a target for hackers looking to spread political messages, known as ‘hacktivists’, and criminal gangs looking to cash in on the Games.
A new startup is embracing the openness of mobile and Internet platforms and developing Ouya, a $99 gaming console for the television with software and hardware that is designed to be hacked. The device will include a controller with a touch pad and a free software development kit.
"The current console market is closed, it’s expensive to develop and it’s expensive to buy games," Julie Uhrman, a former executive at video game website IGN, said. "And we really wanted to turn that idea on its head by creating an open game console where it was inexpensive and affordable for gamers both on console side and game side."
The team hopes Ouya will bring innovation to the good old video game console by attracting “indie” or independent game developers and makers of Triple-A game titles in a bid to capture the imagination of casual and core gamers alike.
Moreover, all the games will be free-to-try. That means developers can pick any plan to monetize their offerings like micro-transactions through sales of virtual goods or subscriptions, as long the gamer can try the game at first for free.
Almost every Fortune 500 company has been hacked and likely won’t even know it until 6 months after the breach, according to one leading expert.
The task of protecting your company seems almost insurmountable, but there are ways to make would-be hackers seek easier targets as Antony De Rosa finds out in this edition of Tech Tonic.
Sky News, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp media empire, admitted on Thursday it had hacked into emails on two occasions but said the actions had been editorially justified and were in the public interest.
Murdoch’s son James resigned as chairman of BSkyB on Tuesday to prevent a phone-hacking scandal at News Corp’s News of the World tabloid newspaper from harming BSkyB, a British pay-tv broadcaster of which News Corp owns 39 percent.
Sky News, BSkyB’S news channel, said that on one occasion it authorized a journalist to access the emails of people suspected of criminal activity in the so-called “canoe man” case of a man who faked his own death by paddling out to sea.
"We stand by these actions as editorially justified and in the public interest," the head of Sky News, John Ryley, said in a statement.
Sky did not say what the second hacking episode was, but media reports said the said journalist accessed the email accounts of a suspected pedophile and his wife in an investigation that did not lead to any material being published or broadcast.
READ MORE: Sky News channel admits to email hacking
News Corp said on Wednesday that James Murdoch, the younger son of chairman Rupert, would relinquish his position as executive chairman of its News International unit.
The younger Murdoch will remain as deputy chief operating officer of the wider business and will focus on its international TV business.
Tom Mockridge, chief executive of News International, will continue in his post and report to News Corp President Chase Carey.
DEVELOPING: James Murdoch gives up key role at News Int’l