Latest New York Times outage due to 'malicious external attack'

UPDATED x5: Reps for the NYT said the attack came through its registrar. Twitter chimes in with an update of its own.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

For anyone who has been trying to access the website for The New York Times over the last hour and has had trouble, you're not alone.

The Grey Lady's online channel has been down since at least 12:30PM PT/3:30PM ET.

Eileen Murphy, vice president of corporate communications for the Times, acknowledged the downtime, offering a small but significant statement on Twitter.

Although more exact details have not been disclosed yet, Murphy attributed the problems to a "malicious external attack."

That assessment sharply contrasts the response from the Times after the site went down earlier this month.

According to the NYT, the outage was the result of a failure during regular maintenance rather than a hacker attack.

Regardless, a number of high-profile media organizations and other global companies have been targets of malicious security breeches over the last few months -- notably at the hands of the Syrian Electronic Army.

Earlier this year, the cyber-crime group launched a series of attacks on Twitter, Thomson Reuters, The Associated Press, and The Guardian, among others.

The Washington Post also recently admitted that it was the victim of a cyber-attack incurred by the hackers supporting the regime of current Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

The Atlantic also reported at the time that the online channels for CNN and Time were also attacked by the same organization.

In response to the string of attacks, Cisco published a report last week, warning that media sites depending on third-parties for content may be increasing the chances of their users being compromised by attackers.

UPDATE: The New York Times published another statement, this time on Facebook, with a link that is not likely to be accidental. Here's a copy of the statement, in full.

Many users are having difficulty accessing The New York Times online. 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. Here is our latest article from Syria, which is accessible to everyone: http://bit.ly/17kjr8X

UPDATE 2: Twitter is also experiencing significant problems, with multiple reports still making it through to the front of the microblogging site saying that the Syrian Electronic Army has taken control of the social network.

UPDATE 3: The New York Times website has been down for more than three hours now, and Twitter has been demonstrating UI issues for roughly the same amount of time.

NYT staff reporter Christine Haughney just published the following update through a proxy site:

The New York Times Web site was unavailable to readers on Tuesday afternoon following an attack on the company’s domain name registrar, Melbourne IT. The attack also required employees of The Times to stop sending out sensitive e-mails.

UPDATE 4: Marc Frons, chief information officer for The New York Times Company, also pinned the blame on "the Syrian Electronic Army or someone trying very hard to be them."

Until access to the complete site can be restored, the NYT is publishing updates to http://news.nytco.com/. It appears the paywall has been taken down for the time being too.

UPDATE 5: Twitter has finally publicly responded about its own service issues today. The bottom line on this one is it doesn't look like any user account information or data was dropped into the wrong hands:

At 20:49 UTC, our DNS provider experienced an issue in which it appears DNS records for various organizations were modified, including one of Twitter’s domains used for image serving, twimg.com. Viewing of images and photos was sporadically impacted. By 22:29 UTC, the original domain record for twimg.com was restored.  No Twitter user information was affected by this incident.

via MarketWatch

Editorial standards