Do Journalists Need Cyber Policy Insurance?

Being a journalist is no easy feat. It takes a lot of work to find sources, write articles, meet deadlines and oh wait rush to a breaking news story. Not to mention that being a member of the free press is historically dangerous and has, all too often, led to imprisonment and executions.

As Voltaire would say, "It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong." As true today, as when it was written.

However, there is an emerging threat to the fourth estate that this French Enlightenment philosopher couldn't have foreseen - the threat of digital incursion.

It turns out that journalists are becoming a hot target for state-sponsored hackers and cybercrime. These threats could impede reporters' ability to do their jobs, leak confidential sources, stymie articles from reaching the public and harm reputations online.

So this begs the question: Do journalists and media companies need to protect themselves with cybersecurity liability insurance? Below, CyberPolicy explores professional risks, tips to improve cybersecurity and the benefits of cybersecurity liability insurance.

Fear & Loathing in Cyberspace
Controversial leaker and cybersecurity advocate Edward Snowden has taken up the cause for protecting reporters from state-sponsored spies.

In an interview with Wired, Snowden described his motives for helping journalists secure their communication. "Watch the journalists and you'll find their sources... Newsrooms don't have the budget, the sophistication, or the skills to defend themselves in the current environment. We're trying to provide a few niche tools to make the game a little more fair."

Similarly, Google has warned a number of journalists that their email accounts may have been attacked by state-sponsored hackers. The web giant has purposefully delayed these notices as not to expose their methods while simultaneously balancing the reporter's right to know.

These kind of security protocols are more necessary than you might think. In 2014, Uber landed in some hot water after it was revealed that the company was using 'God View' to spy on journalists critical of the company. This news came on the heels of controversial comments made by a senior vice president at the company saying Uber should dig up personal information on reporters to discredit claims of sexism and misogyny.

As you can see, journalists don't need to be living in an oppressive foreign regime to need encrypted communications; and neither do their sources. The White House is apparently checking the phones and communications of its staff members to prevent leaks from reaching the public eye.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer received President Donald Trump's approval to search staff cell phones for communications with the press. This, coupled with Trump's statements that the media is the "enemy of the people" has many worried.

Finally, media companies themselves are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Take for instance the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack launched on the BBC in late 2015. At the time it was thought to be the largest DDoS in history. Turns out the attack was "only a test" by hacktivist group New World Hacking. "We didn't exactly plan to take it down for multiple hours," the group said.

It's enough that media outlets have to worry about government-backed cybercriminals, vindictive corporations and restrictive political administrations, now it also has to worry about digital overkill by script kiddies!

Thankfully there are a few things journalists and news organizations can do to protect themselves:

  • Take advantage of encrypted messengers and email services to obscure communications from prying eyes.
  • Carefully analyze software and mobile apps to decrease the chances of spyware downloads and location trackers.
  • Browse the web using a VPN and Tor to cover any digital footprints.
  • Invest in cyber security liability insurance to protect data, sources and reputation following a breach.

While CyberPolicy cannot alleviate the challenges journalists face on the daily, it can be a valuable defender and partner in fight for digital security. Learn more today!

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