The New York Times’ website has been disabled for the second time in under a month, with the newspaper attributing the outage to a “malicious external attack” widely thought to have come from hackers affiliated with the Syrian Electronic Army.
“Many users are having difficulty accessing the New York Times online,” the paper wrote on its Facebook page. “We are working to fix the problem. Our initial assessment is the outage is most likely the result of a malicious external attack. In the meantime we are continuing to publish key news reports.”
Multiple screenshots online reveal that when a user attempts to visit www.nytimes.com, the only message that appears is “Hacked by the SEA.” The hacker collective regularly infiltrates media organizations it perceives to be aligned against the Assad government.
The Times has continued publishing news articles on http://news.nytco.com since the main site began experiencing outages at approximately 3:00 pm EST.
screenshot from www.isitdownrightnow.com
This was the NYT homepage for a few minutes earlier pic.twitter.com/p8zJA96Nmn
— Megan Hess (@mhess4) August 27, 2013
The SEA also claimed in a series of tweets that it hijacked the domain for Twitter, redirected the social media traffic to its own server and rendering the site unstable.
Twitter spokesperson Jim Prosser confirmed to journalist Matthew Keys that site technicians are “looking into claims” from the SEA.
— SyrianElectronicArmy (@Official_SEA16) August 27, 2013
The SEA, a shadowy group of hackers sympathetic to the Syria’s President Bashar Assad, has launched cyber-attacks on a number of media outlets in recent months including the associated Press’ Twitter feed, which falsely reported that US President Barack Obama was injured in an attack on the White House.
The Times’ page was last unavailable on August 14, although the several-hour outage was later blamed on “a failure during regular maintenance.”
re: http://t.co/BQE1fJ3uLx - initial assessment – issue is most likely result of malicious external attack. working to fix
— Eileen Murphy (@NYTeileen) August 27, 2013
“While it may seem a little bit like they’re doing it for lulz because it is kind of random, it is ideologically motivated in the sense that these are all supporters of the Assad regime,” Eva Galperin, a global public policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Verge. “And they’re looking to get a message out about what they feel is bias in the media against Assad.”
This string of attacks comes as US leaders have publicly discussed the possibility of launching an attack against the Assad government, which they say used deployed chemical weapons on the Syrian people as the nation’s civil war passed the two-year point. US Secretary of State John Kerry has called Syria’s use of chemical weapons “undeniable” and “a moral obscenity” as government sources said a cruise missile strike was imminent.