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27 Aug, 2013 21:31

Syrian Electronic Army takes down New York Times website, claims Twitter’s domains

Syrian Electronic Army takes down New York Times website, claims Twitter’s domains

The Syrian Electronic Army has claimed access to a number of Twitter’s international domains shortly after bringing down the New York Times’ website. The attack was apparently made through Melbourne IT.

The SEA managed to alter both contact details and domain name servers of the New York Times and Twitter after reportedly having gained access to their registry records in Melbourne IT. The SEA also claimed responsibility for hacking the Huffington Post UK domain.

As a result of the attack the New York Times’ website has been disabled for the second time in under a month. The newspaper attributed 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.” 

The SEA also claimed in a series of tweets that it hijacked several domains for Twitter, redirected the social media traffic to its own server, rendering the site unstable.

Twitter spokesperson Jim Prosser confirmed to journalist Matthew Keys that site technicians are “looking into claims” from the SEA. 

Hi @Twitter, look at your domain, its owned by #SEA :) http://t.co/ZMfpo1t3oGpic.twitter.com/ck7brWtUhK

— SyrianElectronicArmy (@Official_SEA16) August 27, 2013

After claiming control of Twitter’s domain used for image serving, twimg.com, the Syrian Electronic Army said it could inject it with Javascript code to redirect all Twitter users to the hacktivists’ website. However in the next tweet they acknowledged that “unfortunately” their server would not handle such massive traffic.

So, do we host http://t.co/70wmrzHCqp with Javascript code so all Twitter users will be redirect to our website? #SEA

— SyrianElectronicArmy (@Official_SEA16) August 27, 2013

Both The New York Times and Twitter domains have been registered through the registrar MelbourneIT.

The New York Times Web has issued a statement acknowledging that their site was brought down as a result of an external attack by “the Syrian Electronic Army or someone trying very hard to be them.” Marc Frons, chief information officer for The New York Times Company, advised employees to “be careful when sending e-mail communications until this situation is resolved.”

Random musing: Curious what kind of data the SEA could have grabbed by snarfing nytimes email while the domain is jacked

— Ben Jackson (@innismir) August 27, 2013

The Times’ page was last unavailable on August 14, although the several-hour outage was later blamed on “a failure during regular maintenance.”

screenshot from www.isitdownrightnow.com

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. 

This was the NYT homepage for a few minutes earlier pic.twitter.com/p8zJA96Nmn

— Megan Hess (@mhess4) 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 hacker collective regularly infiltrates media organizations it perceives to be against the Assad government. 

Viva Syrian Arab Army, Viva Bashar Al-Assad... Long live #Syria! #SEA

— SyrianElectronicArmy (@Official_SEA16) 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 hacks comes as US leaders have publicly discussed the possibility of launching an attack against the Assad government, which they say used 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.