New York Times hacked, Syrian Electronic Army takes credit (+video)
A political hacktivist group that has the backing of the Syrian president apparently hit The New York Times, along with Twitter and The Huffington Post UK edition.
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While the integrity of the Times’s website was not itself affected, those attempting to access that site through other servers around the world were redirected to Web addresses controlled by the SEA, several cybersecurity analysts told the Monitor.
At about the same time, Twitter and The Huffington Post UK edition were also the subject of cyberattacks apparently orchestrated by the SEA, according to Twitter accounts used by the SEA. Those attacks were confirmed separately by cybersecurity analysts contacted by the Monitor, who checked the SEA’s claims against Web addresses and Internet registrar sites.
Unlike the situation for the Times website, however, there were no immediately reported access problems for Twitter or Huffington Post users.
Analysts describe what happened to the Times as a DNS-type (or domain name system) attack. In such an attack, the website’s digital address is stolen from its rightful owner and then attached to a rogue site – in this case, the SEA home page, the analysts say.
“What The New York Times is trying to do is get their property back,” says John Bumgarner, a research director for the US Cyber Consequences Unit, a cybersecurity think tank. “Their website address was essentially stolen, hijacked away from them – and now The New York Times is scrambling to get full ownership back.”
It was the second time this month the Times site has gone down for an extended period, with the first time being attributed to internal technical server issues. Moreover, a hacker group also calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for a cyberattack that affected The Washington Post’s and CNN’s websites on Aug. 15.
The SEA is a political hacktivist group that has the backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The New York Times confirmed that its site was unavailable to readers on Tuesday afternoon following a hacking attack on the company’s domain name registrar, Melbourne IT. Times employees were required not to send any sensitive e-mails.
“Marc Frons, chief information officer for The New York Times Company, issued a statement at 4:20 p.m. warning employees that the disruption – which appeared to still be affecting the Web site more than two hours later – was the result of an external attack by ‘the Syrian Electronic Army or someone trying very hard to be them,’ ” the Times reported. “He advised employees to ‘be careful when sending e-mail communications until this situation is resolved.”