OLD Media Moves

New York Times and other media sites hacked

August 28, 2013

Posted by Liz Hester

The New York Times, Twitter and other media outlets’ web sites were hacked Tuesday by supporters of the Syrian government, causing many to miss some of their favorite information sites and raising questions about cyber security.

Here’s the story from Reuters:

Media companies including the New York Times, Twitter and the Huffington Post lost control of some of their websites Tuesday after hackers supporting the Syrian government breached the Australian Internet company that manages many major site addresses.

The Syrian Electronic Army, a hacker group that has previously attacked media organizations that it considers hostile to the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, claimed credit for the Twitter and Huffington Post hacks in a series of Twitter messages.

Security experts said electronic records showed that NYTimes.com, the only site with an hours-long outage, redirected visitors to a server controlled by the Syrian group before it went dark.

New York Times Co NYT.N spokeswoman Eileen Murphy tweeted the “issue is most likely the result of a malicious external attack”, based on an initial assessment.

The Huffington Post attack was limited to the blogging platform’s U.K. web address. Twitter said the hack led to availability issues for an hour and a half but that no user information was compromised.

The attacks came as the Obama administration considers taking action against the Syrian government, which has been locked for more than two years in an increasingly bloody struggle against rebels.

The Financial Times offered this context in a short piece on its site:

The outage is the second that the NYT has experienced this month. An earlier incident, which lasted about two hours, was blamed on a “scheduled maintenance update”.

Other news outlets have fallen victim to hacking. This month the Washington Post said its website had been hacked, with readers of some stories redirected to the website of the Syrian Electronic Army, a hacker collective that is described as supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian Electronic Army claimed in a tweet that it had gained access to the site through one of its business partners.

The Syrian Electronic Army is a group of anonymous hackers who claim that Arab and western media have presented a biased view of the country’s civil war. It previously compromised news organisations including the Financial Times, the Associated Press, the BBC and Al Jazeera.

Since this isn’t the first time that media outlets have been targeted, the question is, what are they doing about it? ABC News reported on how the hackers could actually alter the domain names:

Melbourne IT released a statement this evening acknowledging an unknown party accessed a “reseller” account with a stolen ID and password and used that access to tamper with client domain names, including that of The New York Times. The company said it later reversed those changes.

“We are currently reviewing our logs to see if we can obtain information on the identity of the party that has used the reseller credentials, and we will share this information with the reseller and any relevant law enforcement bodies,” the statement said. “We will also review additional layers of security that we can add to our reseller accounts.”

When asked what a hacker could do with a successful DNS attack, Brian Krebs, a cyber security blogger at KrebsOnSecurity.com who investigated the alleged attack, said, “What couldn’t you do?”

“What DNS does is translate human-friendly domain names [like nytimes.com] into IP addresses and vice-versa. Essentially, if you hijack somebody’s domain name server or alter their information, you can control where the computer sends the user online,” said Krebs.

The U.S. might be weighing military action to try to halt the violence in Syria, but Syrian government supporters are already showing that they’re not going to sit by and watch it happen. While it might not actually hurt the U.S. government, it does show just how vulnerable much of our cyber infrastructure is and how easy it is to disrupt daily life.

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