You might say that The New York Times was asking for trouble when it got into the business of reporting the truth about potentially corrupt Chinese leaders. And trouble is exactly what it got. Over the course of the past four months, the Grey Lady has been at the receiving end of a vicious attack by Chinese hackers who managed to steal the passwords of every single Times employee and access the personal computers of 53 Timesmen and women. The assault began on September 13 of last year, around the same time that reporter David Barboza was finishing up a hard-hitting report on Wen Jaibao, China's prime minister. And no, the timing was not a coincidence.
China has developed a nasty habit of hacking into media outlets' computer systems in an attempt to derail stories about its leaders. Before The Times, a group of Chinese hackers infiltrated Bloomberg News around the same time that it was working on a story about Xi Jinping, then vice president of China, and his rich relatives. Now, The Times reports that the assault on journalists has been going on since 2008 based on an investigation by Mandiant, the cyber security firm that the paper hired to help them figure out its own hacking problems last year. The Times asked AT&T to watch its back on October 24 after Chinese officials warned that reporting on Wen and his relatives would "have consequences." A day later, AT&T notified The Times that they'd spotted suspicious activity on the network. The paper let the hacking continue, as it worked on an investigation with Mandiant. After all, what a great story this whole affair could make!