Report: Hackers on Russian-speaking forum sell access to U.S. news websites

Hackers are selling access to U.S. news websites, allowing buyers to tamper with news reports, according to an organization that monitors the dark web.

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In October 2018, a post appeared on a Russian-language hacker forum advertising the sale of access to content management systems for a bundle of U.S. news websites, Axios reported, citing Israeli threat intelligence firm Sixgill. Bidding started at $600 with a buy-it-now option of $1,200.

Another listing was made in December offering access to a centralized administration panel for a variety of news sites. The news sources were mostly from Southeast Asian countries, with some U.S. and Saudi sources, Axios reported. Bidding started at $50 with a buy-it-now price of $150.

Sixgill staff believe the hackers in both cases are well-established enough for the postings to be legitimate, Axios reported.

"We get a sense of urgency from looking at this stuff," said Alex Karlinsky, an intelligence expert at Sixgill. "It may seem like a small thing, but in this era of political bots and trying to influence opinion, this is another way to do that."

There doesn’t appear to be a spike in the buying and selling of access to news websites, Karlinsky said. The two postings were a coincidence brought about by the rise in listings of pre-hacked sites overall, he said.

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