SAN JOSE, Calif. – Readers who tried to click on the New York Times’ website got nothing but error messages Tuesday afternoon in its second major disruption this month. A hacker group calling itself the “Syrian Electronic Army” claimed responsibility.
Within minutes of the attack, the New York Times announced in a Twitter message that it would continue to publish news. The company quickly set up alternative websites, posting stories about chemical attacks in Syria.
The cyberattacks come at a time when the Obama administration is trying to bolster its case for possible military action against Syria, where the administration says President Bashar Assad’s government is responsible for an alleged deadly chemical attack on civilians. Assad denies the claim.
“Media is going down…” warned the Syrian Electronic Army in a Twitter message before the websites stopped working, adding that it also had taken over Twitter and the Huffington Post U.K.
Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said the disruption was caused by a “malicious external attack” that affected its website and email, while Twitter spokesman Jim Prosser said viewing of images and photos were sporadically affected. Huffington Post U.K. did not respond to requests for comment.
Both Twitter and the Times said they were resolving the attack, which actually hit an Australian company that registered their domain names, Melbourne IT. The firm did not respond to requests for comment. Tracking the hack even further, a computer forensics team from security firm Renesys Corp. traced the Internet protocol addresses back to the same ones as the Syrian Electronic Army’s website sea.sy, which the firm said has been hosted out of Russia since June.
The Syrian Electronic Army has, in recent months, taken credit for Web attacks on media targets that it sees as sympathetic to Syria’s rebels, including prior attacks at the New York Times, along with the Washington Post, Agence France-Press, “60 Minutes,” CBS News, National Public Radio, the Associated Press, Al-Jazeera English and the BBC.