Free speech — the notion that individuals and companies should be free to state their opinions and engage in meaningful discussion without the threat of retaliation — is a fundamental principle in many nations. But Internet-enabled media gives free speech a global audience, meaning companies may face technological backlash from half a world away. How do media organizations make sure they don’t go dark in world of increasingly divisive opinions?
While disagreements about television programming, news articles or the conduct of government officials often plays out in comment sections and editorial pieces, there are malicious groups willing to target IT infrastructure to make their point, either by silencing media outlets or stealing consumer data.
Such was the case in France earlier this month, when television network TV5Monde was disrupted for 18 hours, allegedly at the hands of extremist group ISIS, while France Televisions suffered a criminal cyberattack that saw more than 100,000 consumer contacts stolen, although the media agency says that “no passwords, no bank details were involved.”
And it doesn’t stop at TV. News agencies like the Jewish Press Newspaper were recently hacked by political and religious opponents, while in Russia hackers accessed the email account of Aleksandr Zharov, head of the country’s state agency for media oversight. While these attacks had varying purposes — denial of service, monetary gain, intimidation and the dissemination of information hackers believe should be public — there’s a common theme: Media organizations are high-value, high-profile targets.
Of course, beyond the indignity of being hacked there’s the aftermath: How do media outlets assure consumers that their data is safe, that they’re speaking freely or that the same kind of attack won’t happen again?
It starts with intelligent risk management: Who might want to disrupt our agenda, and who stands to gain if we’re knocked out of service or our image is tarnished? Then next step is designing responsive security architecture which can react to these incidents without delay; for example, the use of cloud-based backup and recovery tools or multiple, redundant databases.
Consumer need for real-time media coverage and interaction, however, demands more, demands that organizations themselves are able to react before an incident occurs and take steps to shut down hackers before TVs go dark and radios go silent. In other words, companies need visibility at the end-user level to track even minor changes and oddities in real time, rather than waiting for daily alerts or aggregated reports. The small, “insignificant” activity in a single user account may be a warning sign, a precursor that bigger attacks are coming. It may be a test, to see how robust your defenses are before a hacker group commits to a full-scale attack. Or it may be nothing — but it’s always worth knowing.
At Nexthink, we believe that free speech comes from full visibility; when you can see everything on your network, in real time, it’s possible to counter suppressive actions and divisive attacks. Bottom line? What you say matters, but how you say it is what truly gets the message across — protect your IT free speech with Nexthink.