Joseph Menn: Does Excessive Reporting on Hacks Encourage More Hacking?

“What I think is not well understood is this gray area between hacked information, leaked information, fake news, and hyped news,” explains Joseph Menn, investigative Cybersecurity Reporter for Reuters and the author of Fatal System Error, in our conversation at the 2017 RSA Conference in San Francisco. “And as a member of the media, we have to take some responsibility for what happened.”

Where Menn thinks the media fell down was in the heavily documented imbalance between the abundance of press articles written on Hillary Clinton’s emails, versus the less widely covered hack and exposure of John Podesta’s (Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman) emails.

“In retrospect, the amount of ink spilled and electrons mercilessly slaughtered on that topic verses the actual criminal hacking of Podesta’s emails and others…. I don’t think it makes us in the media look all that great,” Menn admits.

Watch the full video interview with Joseph Menn here:

This mishmash of media reporting angles, real and fake, legitimate and overblown, has been used of late to discredit major United States institutions and foundational processes, such as elections, major political parties, even the media itself. The American public are starting to doubt objective reality, says Menn, and notes that this growing and divisive imbalance may in fact be the end-goal of malicious state actors.

“You have shocking disagreements over basic facts,” says Menn, with concern. “It seems completely normal now to have these violently different realities.”

Menn would have liked to see the lesser publicized ‘hack and dump’ stories get deservedly more media attention, but he realizes there’s a danger to that as well.

“It would be nice if there was more discussion on what the threshold (on reporting) should be, because you don’t want to be encouraging hackers because you print everything that they come up with,” warns Menn.

About the Author

David Spark is a veteran tech journalist and founder of Spark Media Solutions. Since 1996, Spark and his articles have appeared in more than 40 media outlets including eWEEK, Wired News, PCWorld, ABC Radio, John C. Dvorak’s “Cranky Geeks,” KQED’s “This Week in Northern California,” and TechTV (formerly ZDTV). Spark is also the author of the book, “Three Feet from Seven Figures: One-on-One Engagement Techniques to Qualify More Leads at Trade Shows.” Today, Spark blogs regularly on the Spark Minute and is a regular contributor for Forbes. Spark is a noted speaker, entertainer, and moderator at tech and marketing events.