NBC defended reporter Richard Engel on Friday from charges that his report on hacking in Sochi was “fraudulent.”
Engel delivered a report on Wednesday that showed how easily electronic devices could be hacked. His phone was hacked, he said, “before we even finished our coffee.”
His report was challenged Thursday by cybersecurity expert Robert Graham, who said there were three reasons the story wasn’t adding up:
- They aren’t actually in Sochi (they are in Moscow).
- The “hack” happens because of the websites they visit (Olympic-themed websites), not their physical location. The results would’ve been the same in America.
- The phone didn’t “get” hacked; Richard Engel initiated the download of a hostile Android app onto his phone.
In a statement to Business Insider, an NBC spokesperson said that “the claims made on the blog are completely without merit.”
The spokesperson delivered a point-by-point response:
1. The spokesperson said it was clear from the start of the report that it was taped in Moscow. “Richard welcomed the expert to Moscow on camera, in front of a well-known Moscow landmark.”
2. The spokesperson acknowledged that, “of course,” this type of cyber attack could happen anywhere. “But the point we were demonstrating is that a user is more likely to be targeted by hackers while conducting search in Russia, and that such attacks happen with alarming speed from the moment a user goes online.”
3. NBC said the story was designed to show how easily a non-expert could fall victim to a hack. “Just like any regular user, Richard went online, searched sites and was very quickly targeted and received a tailored fake message designed to trick him into downloading the software.”
NBC has a video that further explains how Engel tried to create a “honeypot” to see if his devices would be hacked:
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