The New York Times website was attacked Tuesday afternoon by “the Syrian Electronic Army, or someone trying very hard to be them,” Marc Frons, the New York Times Company chief information officer, told the paper’s own reporters. The website was down at 3 p.m., and shortly after service was restored it was taken down a second time, preventing it from loading for readers until after 6 p.m..
The Syrian Electronic Army is an organization of hackers who support President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. The S.E.A. emerged in May 2011, during the first wave of Syrian uprisings, according to the NYT. It attacked several news organizations and spammed President Obama’s and Oprah Winfrey’s Facebook pages with pro-Assad comments. The group attacked The Washington Post’s website on on Aug. 15, and also tried to take down CNN. Their stated goal “was to offer a pro-government counternarrative to media coverage of Syria,” according to the NYT.
The hackers on Tuesday targeted the NYT’s domain name registrar. The NYTimes.com domain name is managed by a registrar known as MelbourneIT, according to CloudFlare, one of several web security companies called in Tuesday to help resolve the problem. The hackers, CloudFlare explained, accessed MelbourneIT’s administrative control panel and updated the name servers for NYTimes.com, hijacking the site. The Syrian Electronic Army subsequently posted screen shots of MelbourneIT’s control panel to its Twitter feed.