Cyber attack on Gannett targets U.S. soldiers

BOSTON Tue Jun 28, 2011 6:37pm EDT

BOSTON (Reuters) - Hackers broke into a Gannett Co database containing personal information about subscribers to publications read by U.S. government officials, military leaders and rank-and-file soldiers, the media company said on Tuesday.

Gannett told subscribers via email that it discovered the breach of its Gannett Government Media Corp on June 7. It said it had previously notified subscribers of the breach via a notice on its website.

The attackers accessed subscribers' names, passwords and email addresses, the company said. They also obtained data on the duty status, paygrade and branch of service of some readers who serve in the military.

The information included subscribers to Defense News -- one of the world's most widely read publications covering the defense industry -- as well as publications aimed at soldiers serving in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

Personal data on government officials and members of the military is highly coveted among cyber criminals because it can be used to launch targeted attacks against computer systems that hold classified information.

Hackers might seek to gain control of a government computer system through a "spear phishing" attack in which they send an email that appears to be from a trusted sender.

They seek to trick recipients into letting down their guard to download attachments containing malicious software or click on links to dangerous websites.

EMC Corp and Google Inc are among the companies that recently have fallen victim to highly sophisticated cyber attacks in which hackers accessed their systems via spear phishing.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Paul Simao)