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AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File

Forget President Trump's Twitter terrorism against big media companies. The real and urgent web-world threats that could truly bring down a New York Times or CNN are the escalating cyberattacks targeting media and the companies they rely on.

Why it matters: The entire digital ecosystem is far more vulnerable to cyberattacks — and far more ill-prepared to respond — than we realize. "A large part of this too comes from the fact that media companies are not at all prepared for these threats and the impact isn't always obvious until it's too late," says Asaf Cidon, CEO of cybersecurity firm Barracuda networks.

  • Last week, WPP, the global ad agency, and its subsidiary agencies were forced to shut down after a ransomware attack made their systems completely inoperable.
  • The day after the attack, Fastly, a content distribution network that acts as a backup for several mainstream media sites, like Reddit, The New York Times and Axios, went down due to an unrelated technical malfunction, leaving client websites vulnerable as a global ransomware attack was in motion.
  • In April, Google and Facebook, the two biggest tech giants globally, announced that they were the subject of a phishing scam worth over $100 million. And they have way better tech and security than conventional media companies.
  • Last October, a DDOS (bot-based) attack shut down half of the internet, including major media companies, like the Guardian, CNN and Twitter.

Even more pressing: As media organizations become more centralized through consolidation, security experts and safeguards get moved up the chain from the local level to far-flung city headquarters, leaving local outlets more vulnerable.

Be smart: Bone up on phishing attacks (a common and effective cyber-scam used to gain access to sensitive data through harmless click-here emails). Google sent journalists precautionary warnings of state-sponsored phishing attacks earlier this year.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.