China Hacks Wall Street Journal. Is Your Business Next?

Quick! Name a major international newspaper that wasn’t hacked last week. It might be harder than you think.

Last Wednesday, The New York Times announced on its front page that it had been hacked over the course of four months by state-sponsored cyber criminals in China. The Times said that Bloomberg News had also recently been targeted. The following day, The Wall Street Journal said it too had been infiltrated by Chinese hackers. Next up was the Associated Press, acknowledging similar data security breaches.

According to The Times, it was breached thanks to a spear-phishing attack, at which point the hackers uploaded an array of malware to the company network and started stealing email passwords of reporters, editors and other employees.

This all stems from an October 2012 story written in the paper about the family of the Chinese prime minister quietly amassing a multi-billion-dollar fortune in recent years. Apparently, they were looking for sources used in the investigation that might be revealed in the email accounts of Times reporters and editors.

There is a frightening paradigm shift that seems to have happened in the blink of an eye, but in reality has been ongoing for a while now. State-sponsored cyber attacks are more common than most would think, and if a foreign country thinks it can gain an advantage over the U.S. by weakening businesses and entire industries, in addition to monitoring media outlets and exposing confidential sources of journalists, everyone should be concerned.

Ultimately, you can have all the latest high-tech security measures in place, but they won’t mean anything when a simple mistake made by an employee opens up a hole in your defenses big enough to drive a truck through. Password and data risk management, ways to spot and avoid phishing emails, what type of information you shouldn’t store in online accounts – these are just a few of the things employees must be educated on.

You can build a moat around your business, but if a trusted employee accidentally lowers a drawbridge, don’t think for a second nefarious individuals won’t rush right in.

John Sileo is an data security expert and keynote speaker on social media privacy and risk management. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent work on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.