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Video Raises Doubts About Attkisson's Claims of Malicious Hacking 105

Was former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson's computer hacked? Earlier claims that it was are being scoffed at by some security experts, after looking at cellphone video she has released intended to demonstrate that an intruder was deleting files. The video, say various commentators, may instead just indicate a stuck or faulty backspace key. It could be that both things are true (a stuck backspace key, as well as malicious intrusion targeting Attkisson for her political reporting), but it would be helpful to know more of the details on which CBS's (unnamed) hired experts concluded that her machine was breached.
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Video Raises Doubts About Attkisson's Claims of Malicious Hacking

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  • let's talk about what's helpful, here.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 01, 2014 @08:40PM (#48290179)

    but files disappearing character by character is exactly what happens in movies! Surely it must be the same in real life? Hollywood wouldn't lie to me?!?!

  • by SternisheFan ( 2529412 ) on Saturday November 01, 2014 @08:43PM (#48290191)
    FTA: " Peter Theobald, computer forensics investigator with TC Forensics in Syosset N.Y., said that while he would not be "terribly surprised to find out that someone in the government could or would hack her," he also did not think the video proved "anything."

    "If a hacker were to infiltrate her laptop and delete her files there would be better ways to do it, it wouldn't be so obvious to her," Theobald said. "It did not look like a hacker attack to me."

    All of the experts agreed that hackers would more typically use other methods to delete documents from a computer.

    "The way to do it wouldn't be to hold down the delete key," explained Sam Plainfield, of Syntax Technical Computer Forensics in San Francisco, which is what he thinks appears to be happening in the video. Instead, "you wouldn't see a visual indicator that files are deleting, [they are] just gone."

    Brothers-McGrew noted "in our experience if you have the ability to be able to access and submit keystrokes on someone's computer, you generally have system level access where you can just delete or modify the file yourself. The user would not ordinarily see what is going on."

    He added, "If the government were in there they would most likely be doing it without making themselves known."

    • But that's not how it works in movies.

      Too bad she didn't invest in one of those computers that splashes a skull and crossbones on the screen with a blaring siren to let her know she was being hacked.

      • by jbengt ( 874751 )
        The first time I encountered a computer virus it splashed a big marijuana leaf across the screen to let us know it was compromised. Just saying.
    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      First question here would be if she uses a wireless keyboard.

      In the early days of wireless keyboards they had a tendency to cause interference between two of them due to lack of proper protocol and authentication, but this may still happen if something goes wrong.

  • by StevenMaurer ( 115071 ) on Saturday November 01, 2014 @08:49PM (#48290243) Homepage []

    Attkisson's 'Hack' In a nutshell, Attkisson claims the government hacked her computers in December, 2012 and she reported it to CBS at the time. She claims a PC and her personal Mac were hacked, and the media has accepted this claim with no skepticism. Mediaite went with the assumption that she shot it in December, 2012.

    But a sharp-eyed commenter over at Media Matters observed that Attkisson's video was shot during the Valerie Harper debut on Dancing With the Stars in September, 2013. Here's what WiscoJoe observes:

    Attkisson shot this video on or sometime after September 16, 2013. The episode of "Dancing with the Stars" that is playing in the background features Valerie Harper dancing a Foxtrot to "Some Kind of Wonderful" and first aired live on the evening of that date.
    According to Attkisson's own timeline her computer was 'hacked' in October 2012, she came forward with this allegation in May 2013, but then waited until September 2013 to take video 'evidence.'

    Has Ms. Attkisson provided an explanation of when this video was taken or why she waited for a year, and until after she went forward with public allegations, to take video documentation of her computer being 'hacked'? Is this the standard of investigative journalism that she was doing while at CBS? If that's the case it may explain why she no longer works there.

    • lots of victims wait until the time is right.
      • lots of victims wait until the time is right.

        Right. Then they fake a video as "evidence" that it happened.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          lots of victims wait until the time is right.

          Right. Then they fake a video as "evidence" that it happened.

          Not to mention that they continue to use a laptop for their work for at least 9 months, despite believing it to be completely controlled by "the man". They don't even bother to start using another computer to store their supposedly incredibly important evidence.

    • 2nd rate reporter tries to boost her career by creating sensationalism. More at 11.
    • According to WaPo [], she claims that this iPhone video was taken in September 2013, and not related to the alleged December 2012 incident. It looks like crooksandliars jumped the gun here.

      The rather blatent Dancing with the Stars episode playing in the background may have even been intentional to provide additional credence to the video (the timing is dead on with her claim).

      That's not to say she's not otherwise mistaken (or outright dishonest), but this isn't the smoking gun you're looking for.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        As I said to the OP you're (correctly rebutting...) replying to, what is showing on a "television screen" is not a real good indicator of the actual time.
        It's "an" indicator, but you have to believe two things that are kinda common today : that she's not lying, and that she doesn't have a DVR.

        In this case you're correct that it has absofuckinglutely nothing to do with the incident and... that doesn't prove or disprove anything outside the small point we've made.

        • As I said to the OP you're (correctly rebutting...) replying to, what is showing on a "television screen" is not a real good indicator of the actual time.
          It's "an" indicator, but you have to believe two things that are kinda common today : that she's not lying, and that she doesn't have a DVR.

          What kind of DVR can playback tv shows from the future? Is that a MythTv plugin?

          • What kind of DVR can playback tv shows from the future? Is that a MythTv plugin?

            More interestingly is it piracy when you download a show that hasn't been filmed yet?

      • A sort of backdoor link that leads to an ISP address for a government computer that canâ(TM)t be accessed by the general public on the Web. Itâ(TM)s an undeniable link to the U.S. government.â

        BS. It's probably just one of the DOD IP addresses that T-Mobile uses for its carrier-grade NAT.

    • My theory: she was hacked, had experts confirming it. Now she recall that weird behavior she recorded and post the video, thinking it is a proof, while it is just a stuck key.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by slowdeath ( 2836529 )

      Per the CBS article:

      "This party also used sophisticated methods to remove all possible indications of unauthorized activity, and alter system times to cause further confusion."

      So if the 'hacker' was so sophisticated as to remove all possible indications of unauthorized activity then how can they possibly conclude there was ANY 'unauthorized' activity? They would have to find some evidence of it (and they say the did not) to state otherwise.

      So I can only conclude the 'forensic analysis team' was spouting pur

    • by jbengt ( 874751 )

      The episode of "Dancing with the Stars" that is playing in the background . . .

      I think she should be sued for copyright infringement.

  • She doesn't happen to moonlight for the IRS, does she?

  • by gbcox ( 868098 ) on Saturday November 01, 2014 @08:55PM (#48290285) Homepage
    As noted here: [] If you watch the video you'll see Valerie Harper in "Dancing with the Stars" playing in the background. That happened on or after September 16, 2013. "According to Attkisson's own timeline her computer was 'hacked' in October 2012, she came forward with this allegation in May 2013, but then waited until September 2013 to take video 'evidence.'" "We are supposed to believe that Sharyl Attkisson was hacked by the government and just said, "Oops, I'm hacked!" while she went merrily along with no additional examination, security and a nine-month lag between when she originally believed she was hacked and when she shot the video?" This is buffoonery at it's best!
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Why does nobody fake "evidence" convincingly anymore? As a member of the public, I really feel quite insulted.

      • by lucm ( 889690 )

        I think the establishment looks at the top grossing apps on the various app stores and figures that the people buying that kind of product don't require clever lies and properly fabricated evidences to be manipulated.

      • Psst. Buddy...

        wanna buy a slightly used moon landing?

  • She got played by bad sources pedaling BS stories about Benghazi. This for a report that made it on the air. Yet she insists that CBS suppressed other stories of hers. Were they suppressed because they were bad reporting, or for political reasons? Since leaving CBS, she has gotten wilder about her claims. She really needs to have been hacked, to give herself credibility. If the government hacked her computer, it would validate everything she has said. If the government is not out to get her, she's indisti
    • She got played by bad sources pedaling BS stories about Benghazi.

      Given that the President of the United States and Secretary of State themselves personally pedaled BS stories about Benghazi (e.g. downplaying the terrorism angle and blaming an internet video), I suggest you adopt a more cynical and suspicious attitude toward the "official line" from the current administration. Not saying Attkisson's sources were right, just that this administration is willing to lie through its teeth to keep an unfavorable story from going public.

      In particular, it is likely that the off

  • Earlier story reported she discovered classified documents planted on here computer, most likely as a trick to indict her.

    If this is a stuck backspace key, then what about the documents?

    • I'm very curious about that as well. If they were real classified documents, then the FBI should be able to investigate, and I'd like to think that this would lead either to information about a crime possibly committed here, or to assurance that it was all a misunderstanding/paranoid delusion and there were no classified documents. Not that FBI agents don't sometimes lie or get their investigations quashed by Nixon administration types, but hey, just humor my naive optimism a little.
    • What with Snowden and Wikileaks, every reporter in the world has classified documents on her computer.

    • Yes, whatever did become of those "'classified' documents"? If they were a trick to indict her, why hasn't she been indicted, 2 years later? Why does she say so little about them? Why doesn't she identify them? Why doesn't she say what happened when she reported them to the FBI and her local police authorities?
    • Why isn't she in Guantanamo Bay? The administration didn't want to interfere with her book tour?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    i mean how stupid do you have to be to leave your computer unprotected and expose it to hACKING?

    • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Saturday November 01, 2014 @10:29PM (#48290743) Journal

      I do not know how stupid you have to be, but I do know there are a lot of these people out there.

      I used to get infected computers all the time, ask them what kind of anti virus they run and get told they don't need them because they don't have a virus. I don't know how many people say they turned it off because it kept quarantining some file they downloaded to help them get movies or music or programs. They all swear the guy in the chat room knows what he was talking about. I even had one moron attempt to sue me in small claims court because a program I installed kept deleting his files. Of course it was an antivirus and the files were ones he downloaded from some p2p network. I replaced several components and a case on a computer that took a flight from a second story window because it kept freezing and locking up. After the owner picked it up and took it home, he called angrily complaining that he just paid me $500 and it does the same damn thing. I stopped over and found the problem to be a bad cord on his mouse- $20 dollars later, his old system would have been just fine still.

      I don't think you would believe how many of those people exist out there.

      • Fortunately, half of them are busy looking for the Any key at any given point in time. And they are going to find it, if it kills them.
  • by BlacKSacrificE ( 1089327 ) on Saturday November 01, 2014 @09:32PM (#48290475)
    We had a laptop come across the bench once that had been "raped by malware" according to the booking agent. Programs opening themselves, unpredictable behaviour everywhere. Before I had even powered the thing I noticed the enter key was sitting a poofteenth lower than the rest of the keys. Pulled the keyboard and found a fingernail clipping wedged under the lifter. Needless to say none of the reported problems were evident when I loaded it to OS. Why the BIOS did not pick up a stuck key I will never know, but hey, it was an easy $70.

    This is what she gets for doing bodywork in front of the machine.
    • The rubber dome under the enter key might have been sitting just a hair away from making electrical contact, and only made contact when the keyboard deformed slightly by being touched. This would explain the psuedo-random nature of it, and the fact that it didn't happen during post.

  • Superficial garbage and just a bunch of shock-jock reporting crap again. Forget whatever 'security experts' were brought on, I would have been thoroughly entertained to see an official 'Hackers' reunion with Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie and alike giving in-character input and play-by-play, then end the segment with "Indeed. RISC architecture is gonna change everything"
  • And the backspace key just followed suit.

  • Do I think she was being monitored? Yes. Was she actually intruded? Maybe. Does she have evidence of any of that? Not that I can see.

    She was talking to people the government doesn't want talking to the media. So they were probably watching her.

    Did they invade her systems to snoop or destroy evidence? We've seen them do that before so it is possible.

    These videos and her descriptions of events however make her sound confused.

  • Media Matters is no more and no less than a leftist propaganda outlet. I'm not insulting them by saying that, it's actually their entire mission. If Obama stepped in front of a camera and mooned the nation, it would be their job to spin it in a positive way.

    That said, I have no problem with taking a hard line on Attkisson's claims. Extraordinary demands and extraordinary evidence and all that sort of thing. So why not find a journalistic outlet instead? Example of MM spin: they quote "experts" who cla
    • by Anonymous Coward

      This got modded up? Media Matters may be left-leaning, but they don't make stuff up when they show video of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly saying bigoted things. If you're mad that they cover right-wingers more than left-wingers, its mainly because right-wingers are more prominent in media and make far bigger and frequent gaffes. Don't complain about bias when that's the case.

      • This got modded up? Media Matters may be left-leaning, but

        No, you don't get it. They don't just happen to be "left leaning", they are left leaning by definition and organizational mission. They are very much like the SPLC in that regard -- from time to time individuals have approached the SPLC asking why they don't give airtime to exposing various left wing hate groups and individuals, and the response has always been "That's not our mission -- we are just pointing out problems we see on the right." If Media Matters started criticizing left leaning liberal exce

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Sunday November 02, 2014 @12:11AM (#48291085) Homepage Journal

    She wasn't hacked. She has a bad keyboard, a bad USB controller chip in the keyboard, or something similar happening.

    I thought I was hacked a couple of years ago. It turned out to be a dead USB controller chip in my Logitech trackball that would periodically "stick" the mouse buttons in up/down positions and randomly move the mouse pointer around the screen. By sheer fluke, it would look like someone was remotely controlling the mouse and making menu selections, closing windows, and so on. But it was just that the mouse buttons were random-firing while the cursor moved about more slowly, so of *course* it would click on something sooner or later.

    Being bi-polar and subject to paranoia as a result, I was really freaked out by the whole episode -- until I borrowed a test mouse, plugged it in, and all the problems went away.

    That's not to say I've *never* been hacked, but hackers cover their tracks a lot better and don't tend to futz with things like remote-controlling a desktop. They just hit up the file system directly.

    • by msobkow ( 48369 )

      Being bi-polar really sucks sometimes. It comes with a fair degree of paranoia during the manic phases at the best of times, and having something like this *actually happening* just sends me over the top and into nutbar land.

  • by Dan Askme ( 2895283 ) on Sunday November 02, 2014 @06:10AM (#48291985) Homepage

    Lets not forget, the NSA doesn't just use software to spy on us.

    In the past few years, hardware has taken on the new role, and, they have been installing secret microchips into your backspace keys. Not only can they see what your doing, they can now delete text from your science homework!

    How do you stop it from happening?
    Tor Keyboard, now with complete backspace anonymity. Coming to mass media websites soon!

  • There is no doubt that this was not a 'hack'.

    I have a Macbook Pro sitting on a shelf next to me that has a stuck control key that randomly registers during use. It's not physically stuck, and even after fully removing the key and zapping PRAM/resetting everything and even reinstalling the OS, it randomly engages. I've witnessed this myself on different models of Macs with different keys being affected.

    This lady just wants to blame everyone else for her lack of mental acuity and imagines she is more importa

  • Maybe it was benevolent hacking, as opposed to malicious?

    (Murphy's corrollary: "Friendly fire, isn't".)

Reactor error - core dumped!