Problems with the site first surfaced around 3PM Eastern Tuesday, when Syrian hackers transferred control of the nytimes.com domain name. As of 7PM Eastern, the New York Times domain remains unavailable. According to New York Times Chief Information Officer Marc Frons, the attack was caused by “the Syrian Electronic Army or someone trying very hard to be them.”
According to a “whois” search, the SEA is currently listed as an admin for the New York Times domain. Past attacks suggest that the SEA likely sent out a series of phishing emails to workers at the Times, collecting the information necessary to carry out the hijack. New York Times workers are being urged by Frons to “be careful when sending e-mail communications until this situation is resolved.”
Earlier in the day, the New York Times printed an editorial about the United States’ possible intervention in the civil war currently being raged in Syria called Responding to Syrian Atrocities. In it, Times editors suggested the possibility of President Obama launching a coordinated strike without U.N. approval, urging him to get the support of more countries. That editorial, or really any of The Times' Syrian coverage, could have instigated the attack.
Western countries are alleging that President Bashar al-Assad’s government is responsible for launching an August 21 chemical weapons attack on Syrian rebels that left 355 dead. The act, if verified by U.N. inspectors, could lead to the United States or our allies getting involved in the conflict. The Syrian Electronic Army openly supports al-Assad’s regime, targeting news outlets that paint the leader in an unfavorable light.
“We have a mission, that is to defend our country in cyber space,” explained one SEA leader to The Daily Dot in a May interview. “We are just Syrian youths who want to defend their country against the media campaign that is full of lies and fabricated news reports.”
The New York Times is only the latest victim in the Syrian Electronic Army’s cyber war. Previously, the group has hacked the Twitter accounts and websites for major worldwide news outlets such as the Associated Press, BBC, Al Jazerra, NPR, The Daily Telegraph, and The Washington Post. Many attacks carry with them a prank element, issuing false news updates such as, “Saudi weather station down due to head-on collision with camel.”
Despite the hack, the New York Times is still publishing stories and operating as usual. You can continue to read updates at The Times by visiting its alternate address at http://126.96.36.199/.