Back in its heyday, the American news agency known as the United Press International was a broadcasting heavyweight with A-list news anchors such as the likes of the affable Walter Cronkite.
Now, the century-old news agency has lost most of its gravity to the increasingly dominant news presence, the Associated Press, although this seemingly does little to make it less of a target for dark web hackers.
UPI.com is the latest victim of a dark web hacker known pseudonymously as zerodark70, who is purported to have stolen 83,000 accounts from the 110-year-old news agency’s website.
Shortly after the hacking, the substantial information cache was put up for sale on the dark web with a $100 price tag.
Passwords Were Hashed with MD5 Algorithm
UPI.com was first learned of the data breach after an alert from CyberScoop.
Consequently, the news agency reacted to the breach by removing login pages to their site and alerting their entire email subscription list.
The stolen cache of information was listed on popular dark web market, AlphaBay, and featured passwords, emails, and real names.
For verification purposes, the dark web seller zerodark70 availed a sample of the stolen information to CyberScoop, who proceeded to confirm that the cache of information did indeed contain encrypted passwords, real names, and emails, and went as far as contacting some of the victims of the hacking to confirm the account details.
Unsurprisingly, the passwords were hashed with the dated MD5 algorithm, an encryption technology that poses no challenge at all for any reputable hacker on the dark web.
Speckled with vulnerabilities, some of the MD5-hashed passwords in the stolen account information had already been cracked by the dark web information seller.
UPI.com Takes Drastic Countermeasures
Following the data breach, the removal of the UPI Next login page was the first step taken by the century-old American news agency.
The UPI Next, UPI’s global media development division, is frequented by many international faculty members and students.
Stolen alongside the 83,000 accounts were email addresses which appear to belong to the entire mailing list of UPI.com.
These included tens of thousands of email addresses belonging to prominent news anchors, journalists, UPI’s executives, and several high-ranking employees.
UPI was also prompt to alert their entire email subscription list of the data breach, urging them to reset their passwords and/or change their login information entirely.
Recent Hacking Not UPI’s First Tango with Dark Web Cybercriminals
In 2015, UPI was involved in a major hack believed to have been orchestrated by the Syrian Electronic Army, a group of hackers that is credited with many similar hacks, according to UPI’s IT Director.
The hackers took over UPI’s website and posted announcements about the commencement of World War III.
UPI regained control of their accounts shortly after, however, and corrected the false announcements.
As for the latest hacking incident, there is a significant possibility that a large portion of the information being sold on the dark web is not up to date.
Nevertheless, more than a few people will be too willing to pay the $100 price to gain access to some of the country’s most proficient news personalities who have often gotten close to influential leaders from all around the world.
Even in its waning years, UPI still appears to be a tantalizing enough target for dark web criminals since it has attracted two major attacks in quick succession.
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