Symantec denies blame in New York Times hack

Hacked newspaper claims AV software missed 44 pieces of malware

Stewart Mitchell
31 Jan 2013

Security company Symantec has blamed The New York Times for not installing and configuring its software properly after Chinese hackers infiltrated the paper's computer systems.

The accusation follows a rare public disclosure from a hacked company, with The Times pointing the finger at Symantec for not spotting the attack from Chinese hackers that obtained editorial passwords.

In an in-depth review of the hack, how it took place and the fall out, The Times took the unusual step of naming its security supplier, and made no bones about the lack of effectiveness of the suite it had deployed.

Over the course of three months, attackers installed 45 pieces of custom malware

"Over the course of three months, attackers installed 45 pieces of custom malware," the paper said. "The Times — which uses antivirus products made by Symantec — found only one instance in which Symantec identified an attacker’s software as malicious and quarantined it, according to Mandiant, [the company used to clean up and investigate the hack]."

The revelation drew a quick response from Symantec, which appeared to claim The Times hadn't turned on all the options available in the software.

"Advanced attacks like the ones the New York Times described underscore how important it is for companies, countries and consumers to make sure they are using the full capability of security solutions," Symantec said in a statement.

"The advanced capabilities in our endpoint offerings, including our unique reputation-based technology and behaviour-based blocking, specifically target sophisticated attacks," the company claimed.

"Turning on only the signature-based anti-virus components of endpoint solutions alone are not enough in a world that is changing daily from attacks and threats," it added. "We encourage customers to be very aggressive in deploying solutions that offer a combined approach to security. Anti-virus software alone is not enough."

According to The Times, the hackers stole passwords for every employee, taking particular interest in staff linked to stories on China and its senior politicians.

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