How a fake 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics hacking story is causing real damage to NBC News' reputation

NBC News would have you believe that the life expectancy of a MacBook Air or Android phone at the Winter Olympic Games is roughly zero, at least when it comes to it being hacked and your financial and other personal information stolen. Anyone with a base level of technical knowledge at all would recognize it as complete and utter bullshit the minute they saw it. Sadly, as many of us who got contacted by concerned family members know, it's far too easy to scare everyone else. Robert Graham of Errata Security calls the report "100% fraudulent":

Absolutely 0% of the story was about turning on a computer and connecting to a Sochi network. 100% of the story was about visiting websites remotely. Thus, the claim of the story that you'll get hacked immediately upon turning on your computers is fraudulent. The only thing that can be confirmed by the story is "don't let Richard Engel borrow your phone".

They didn't name the type of phone, and didn't show an iPhone, which has an amazingly good track record when it comes to preventing malware and other security risks. Phil Nickinson weighs in on the Android aspect on Android Central:

What's more is that Android has safeguards built in by default. While it certainly is possible to hit a link and see a malicious app start downloading, it won't actually install without some other interaction. And one of the first checkpoints is the "Unknown sources" option. If your phone isn't set to install apps from outside Google Play — in other words, "unknown sources," it'll tell you. And in just about every retail phone we can think of, that option is turned on by default. Those are but two layers of security. There are others.

It's a similar story with the MacBook. You'd have to go to a dangerous website, download a malware package, launch it, allow it to bypass Gatekeeper, and give it your admin password in order to install. In other words, you've got to be the failure point, not your computer. And none of that has anything to do with going to Sochi.

Time was mainstream media turned their noses up at bloggers, claiming we were beneath them and weren't "real journalists". And thank goodness for that, given just how crazy a lot of mainstream media has become. I've already expressed my dismay over an excerpt from a former-Wall Street Journal reporter's Apple book, and this just makes a bad day for the Fifth Estate that much worse.

Attracting attention is easy. Doing something worthwhile with it is another thing entirely. NBC could have grabbed us and left us better educated and informed for it. Instead they tried to make us dumber.

NBC's motto used to be "proud as a peacock". What happened to that pride?

Via: Errata Security

(And, given the potential harm of the story, can I tell you how much I don't care that they tore open the MBA box like three year olds on cake-fueld sugar highs?)

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.