WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A CBS News investigative reporter's computer was remotely accessed by an unauthorized party several times late last year, the news organization said on Friday, citing an analysis by an outside cyber security firm.
The review found that Washington-based reporter Sharyl Attkisson's computer "was accessed by an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions late in 2012," CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair said in a statement.
The forensic analysis showed the hacker appeared to have searched and extracted data, and then "used sophisticated methods" to cover up the unauthorized activity, McNair added.
McNair said CBS News is "taking steps to identify the responsible party and their method of access."
Attkisson is known for reporting on the anti-gun-trafficking program Operation Fast and Furious, as well as on the attack in September on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed.
Fast and Furious was aimed at slowing the flow of illegal firearms from Arizona to Mexico but instead it allowed some weapons to be trafficked. A Justice Department internal watchdog later condemned the program's strategy of ignoring low-level gun purchases, and several department officials including the U.S. attorney in Arizona resigned.
After Attkisson revealed the compromise of her computer in a radio interview last month, a Justice Department spokesman told the Politico newspaper that prosecutors were not involved.
The department gathered data on reporters of at least two other news outlets, the Associated Press and Fox News, for recent leak investigations.
Attkisson said in the radio interview that the hacking began in February 2011 when she was reporting on stories critical of the Obama administration, including the gun operation, according to Politico. Both her work and her home computers may have been targeted, she said in the interview.
Media organizations in the United States and around the world have reported a string of attacks on their computers or records.
The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal all have reported infiltration they said was linked to Chinese hackers targeting their coverage of the Asian powerhouse nation.
Social media, too, has been a target. Facebook in February said sophisticated hackers who appeared to be from China had infiltrated its network. Twitter also that month said it had been compromised.
CBS is also among the media outlets targeted by Syrian government supporters in recent months. Others targeted included the Financial Times, ITV News, BBC, Reuters and the Associated Press.
The attacks - some directed at websites and others at Twitter feeds - were linked to the Syrian Electronic Army, an online group that supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, media organizations said.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by David Ingram in Washington and Liana Baker in New York; Editing by Will Dunham and Jackie Frank)
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