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June 29, 2011

Hackers Pilfer Data from Military Personnel by Targeting Magazine Publisher

By Beecher Tuttle, TMCnet Contributor

Gannett Government Media – publisher of Defense News and several other prominent military-related websites and newspapers – has been hacked.

The company acknowledged yesterday that a data breach occurred on June 7, when hackers accessed the names, passwords and email addresses of subscribers. Readers of Gannett's publications include active and retired military personnel, government officials and defense contractors, according to Computer World.

In addition to user data, the hackers may have also accessed the duty status, pay grade and branch of service of subscribers who voluntarily handed over that information, Gannett said in a message to its users. The company has promised that no financial information was compromised.

The list of publications that may have been accessed includes Defense News, the Military Times, the Federal Times, the Army Times and the Intelligence, among several others.

The company has encouraged subscribers to reset their Gannett password as well as any other account with similar login information.

“We have been working with an outside computer forensics company to help us investigate the breach and strengthen our security controls,” Gannett said in the note posted on its website. “We deeply regret any inconvenience that this may cause and appreciate your understanding.”

The defense publisher also told subscribers that they should “be on the lookout“ for suspicious emails that ask readers for credit card information, social security numbers or other confidential data. Gannett also warned users of clicking on or downloading attachments in such emails as they may contain malware and other malicious code.

Anup Ghosh, the founder and CEO of Web security firm Invincea, told Computer World that the hackers were most likely targeting military personnel.

“It's hard to know if this was just part of the general ransacking of sites, or an attempt to obtain valuable information for spear-phishing,” he told the news source. “This is a pretty selective group,” Ghosh said of the subscribers.

The attack on Gannett's systems comes shortly after defense contractor Lockheed Martin (News - Alert) was targeted by hackers. Lockheed acknowledged in May that its network experienced a “significant and tenacious attack,” although it said that its systems remain secure and no critical data has been compromised.

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Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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