WBOC Talks with Cyber Security Expert, Investigation into Attack - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

WBOC Talks with Cyber Security Expert, Investigation into Attack on Station Continues


DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - The FBI continues to investigate a cyber attack on WBOC's online presence Tuesday. A group calling itself the Cyber Caliphate attacked the station's website and twitter account.

WBOC.com is back up and running as normal. But, for the time being, the station's Twitter account is still compromised.

WBOC was not alone in being attacked. The Albuquerque Journal was compromised Tuesday, too. And the FBI tells WBOC other media outlets have also been compromised in the past few weeks.

In 2012 the University of Delaware started what it calls the Cyber Security Initiative. WBOC sat down with one of its experts to talk about this attack and the people behind it.

Dr. Chase Cotton says the motivations for cyber attacks have changed over the years - from "just because" to economic and financial reasons to political ones. That arena includes so-called "hack-tivism" and its evil, insidious cousin, "cyber terrorism."

"They're going to use their tools in any way they can to go after media and other people," Cotton said.

As the FBI investigation continues, Cotton has some initial thoughts on the perpetrators.

"This smells more like an individual who is just passionate about the cause without any direct connections."

Cotton says an attack can happen through things like malware or getting a password. One way of getting a password is called brute force, which, according to Greg Gay, WBOC's Director of Information Technology, means having a computer automatically attempt password after password to access an account.

Gay says for everyone, when it comes to passwords, size does matter.

"Every extra character you add to it exponentially adds to the amount of time it would take to brute force that password," Gay said.

Just how much time? Consider this. Gay says the password "#8Dt%x*" would take a normal desktop seven and a half months to crack. But the password "thisismypasswordsilly" would take 69,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years to crack.

For you a good password protects things like your financial assets. In the case of media outlets, Cotton says attackers are interested in the platform sites provide.

"That's your asset that the bad guy is looking for. That person can put their message up on your platform," he said.

A question WBOC has heard a lot recently is - why WBOC? The station's reach is huge on Delmarva but small in the grand scheme of the international media landscape.

Cotton points out the actual outlet attacked is less relevant in spreading a message after all the coverage starts. And a quick Google search produces hundreds of articles worldwide on what happened to the station.

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