As in other industries, attacks that use an organization’s website as the point of entry are common. So are social engineering attacks, such as spear phishing, which trick people into giving away passwords and other sensitive information. However, what makes the online media industry unique is the fact that the sector itself can serve as a vector for launching attacks, due to the large number of people who use its services. A good example of this is the “watering hole” attack, in which hackers breach a popular website and then use it as a delivery platform for malware.

Another threat that uses online media itself as the attack vector involves manipulating news sources to trick people or automated programs into making misinformed decisions. There are many well known examples of high profile online media accounts being hacked and fed deceptive information. In one extreme case, the attack triggered a stock market crash by fooling stock trading programs into placing automatic sell orders based on false information from a political online media account.

For online media organizations, attacks that cause reputational damage are one of the biggest threats. News organizations in particular are increasingly popular targets for hacktivists and attack groups loyal to a particular nation or cause. Some of these attacks target specific reporters in an effort to uncover
their sources; other attacks disrupt websites or present substitute content in order to damage an organization’s reputation, spread propaganda, or manipulate public opinion.