NYTimes Attacked by Syrian Electronic Army, 'A Big Deal,' Times CIO Says

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The New York Times' website was attacked by hackers this past week. (Credit: NYTimes, screenshot, highlight added)

The New York Times’ website was attacked, reportedly by the Syrian Electronic Army, on August 27. The Times, if the attack was in fact done by the Syrian Electronic Army, is one of the most high-profile targets it has yet hit.

Previously, the Syrian Electronic Army, a hacking group that supports Bashar Assad’s rule in Syria, has hacked numerous international media outlets’ Twitter accounts or websites. It hacked the Financial Times‘ Twitter account in May, the Associated Press’s and the Guardian‘s Twitter account in April, some BBC Twitter accounts in March, Agence France-Presse’s photo Twitter account in February, and Al Jazeera’s “mobile service” last September.  In April, the Syrian Electronic Army hacked National Public Radio’s website and changed “headlines and text.”

The Times reported on the attack on its website August 27. In a story about its domain name registrar being attacked and taking down the Times‘ site, the newspaper noted that this was the “second time this month that the Web site of The New York Times was unavailable for several hours.”

However, the previous time was the result of “technical problems,” the Times report said.

With this attack, the newspaper’s “site was never down,” Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy told iMediaEthics. And, none of the Times’ content on its site was affected, Murphy wrote:

“The disruption in service to nytimes.com was the result of an external attack on our domain name registrar, which redirected many users of nytimes.com to a bad domain address.  In other words, the attackers never had access to our site.

Further, the newspaper reported that New York Times company’s chief information officer Marc Frons called the attack “a big deal,” and said the people behind what he called “a malicious external attack” were “the Syrian Electronic Army, or someone trying very hard to be them.”

The Times’ Murphy said by email August 30 that “The SEA claimed responsibility but we have no way of confirming that or their motivation.”

A tweet from the Syrian Electronic Army said that the group intended to use the New York Times attack to direct readers to “an anti-war message.”



Frons added that not only was the site under attack but staff had to “be careful when sending e-mail communications.”

Mediaite published a screenshot of the Times front page during the hack at one point. The image said “Hacked by Syrian Electronic Army.”

A screenshot of what some users saw on the Times’ website during the attack, via Mediaite.

During the attack, The New York Times posted some of its stories on a “bare-bones alternate site,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

The New York Times wasn’t alone in having its site attacked, Deadline.com reported. Twitter and Huffington Post UK faced “similar attacks” but “were not as widely affected as” the New York Times.

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NYTimes Attacked by Syrian Electronic Army, ‘A Big Deal,’ Times CIO Says

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