Hate Rising; Cyber Soldiers; Deadliest Assignment; Climate Refugees -- "CBSN: On Assignment"

Last Updated Aug 21, 2017 10:42 PM EDT

Hate Rising

"In all of our years of tracking, we've never seen this many [hate] groups," Heidi Beirich told CBS correspondent Tony Dokoupil. Beirich is the director of Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) Intelligence Project, which monitors hate group activity online. "We've never seen their ideas penetrating the mainstream the way they are. I would say most Americans don't realize how much of this there is." 

It's been a little over a week since neo-Nazis marched in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting "Jews will not replace us." In the intervening days, debate has raged over just how America's national conversation has become a real-time discussion of white supremacy and its place in the U.S., muddied by President Trump's ambiguity on the matter. The groups in question -- who openly espouse racist views and have felt newly emboldened since the recent presidential campaign -- find themselves firmly back in the mainstream. 

The nation witnessed what's considered one of the largest white supremacy marches in decades as hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Charlottesville. During the rally, a car rammed into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters, injuring dozens and killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. All this against a backdrop of a national debate around the rights and wrongs of maintaining statues that celebrate the Confederacy.

The SPLC estimates that there are currently more than 900 hate groups -- organizations with beliefs that attack an entire group of people -- operating in the country. Many of these hate groups subscribe to the ideals of white supremacy.

In fact, Beirich says the number of hate groups has doubled over the past two decades -- a trend that appears to follow the impact of minorities, financial crisis and political elections have on society.

According to the SPLC, there's a new generation of so-called white nationalism being run by millennials. Matt Heimbach, one of the main organizers of the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, is the face of this movement.

"Well, we have energy, I think, because Donald Trump's election showed that the majority of white American's social, working class America believes in sovereignty," Heimbach told "CBSN: On Assignment."

Cyber Soldiers

Since 2015, almost all healthcare organizations have reported at least one cyberattack. Dr. Jennifer Pugh runs their emergency room at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, New York, the largest U.S. hospital attacked in the U.S. 2017 so far. 

She was on staff the morning the hackers infiltrated their system, sending a ransomware note demanding bitcoin equivalent to $44,000. They froze staff out of their machines, rendering patient files inaccessible in a now-familiar M.O. for hackers. "Honestly, I think it's disgusting … they're attacking some of the most vulnerable members in society by coming after a hospital," Pugh says.

The hospital's CEO, Thomas Quatroche, decided not to pay the ransom, but the hack will cost them a lot of money. "This is a form of terrorism… we decided not to pay that ransom but make no mistake about it this ... it's going to cost us a lot of money in the long run," he says.

Thousands of these attacks, of all scales, take place every day. "White-hat hackers" are the good guys -- paid by companies to hack their systems and find flaws before they are exploited by cyber criminals, or "black-hat hackers".

White-hat hackers from India report more vulnerabilities to companies from here than hackers anywhere else in the world. One of the world's best white-hat hackers, Sandeep Singh, better known by his online moniker "Geekboy," has hacked companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Uber and AirBnb -- with good intentions. And he is paid well for it -- companies offer 'bug bounties' to people who find vulnerabilities in their systems which they can then patch. "How much I make in one day, my friends make in one year," Singh says.

Geekboy hopes he can stop the hackers who are exploiting people for money. "I feel disgusted - what they are doing is very bad," Sandeep says. "From this side I will always try to oppose [them]... everyone and every company should hire good guys."

The Deadliest Assignment

Mexico has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. Reporting on cartel violence and government corruption has led to 100 journalist killings in the past 25 years, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. This year alone 8 journalists were killed, including Miroslava Breach, one of Mexico's leading investigative reporters. She was gunned down outside her home after reporting on collision between cartels and government.

Luis Chaparro, 28, is a freelance journalist who worked closely with Breach at "El Norte," a newspaper based in Cd. Juarez. CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez met with Chaparro in downtown Juarez, just steps from the United States.

"Every journalist in Mexico is a target now," Chaparro said. "She was brave. I felt that bullet was too close for me."

Oscar Cantu, the owner of "El Norte," where Breach's articles were published, said Breach knew she was publishing dangerous content, but never told him she felt in danger, though "she must have known."

Cantu showed CBS News Breach's final report in which she wrote, "by either threat or just being complicit, the heads of narcos in all of these regions (Chihuahua State) have infiltrated local governments."

Cantu believed it was likely that exact report lead to her death.

Climate Refugees

Kiribati, the Pacific island nation with a population of 100,000, faces looming threats due to sea level rise and climate change. The archipelago is made up of 33 coral atolls and lies halfway between Hawaii and Australia.

Kiribati native Tearei Tekita's says her home was destroyed by an extremely high tide, known as a "King Tide," when the water surged up from the shoreline without notice as she and her niece lay sleeping. She points to what is now a pool of water, where her home, and many others, once stood.

Scientists have said that the island nation, along with other low-lying Pacific nations, could be uninhabitable within decades. According to Ben Strauss, Vice President for Sea Level and Climate Impacts at Climate Central, "Sea level is rising 50 percent faster than it was 20 years ago and that is a real cause for alarm, so it is not a future thing we are really seeing that acceleration." Kiribati, pronounced "kir-ah-bahss" by locals, has an average elevation of just 6 feet above sea level.

For Strauss, and for the people of Kiribati, every increment of sea level rise poses great threat. "If your maximum elevation is six feet then by the time we get to three feet I think you are in existential stress, you are going to have to have to evacuate".  For the remote country's 33 small islands that are scattered across the ocean, spanning an area the size of Alaska, evacuation is not easy. Residents told CBS News correspondent Seth Doane that they would want to leave Kiribati due to the extreme weather they face, however, the UN does not recognize climate change as grounds for refugee status.