A group claiming to be the Syrian Electronic Army has taken down the New York Times Web site by attacking the registrar that the New York Times uses. That registrar just happens to be Melbourne IT.
In a statement regarding the attack — as I write this, the NYT site itself still appears to be inaccessible — it's stated that
"The New York Times Web site was unavailable to readers Tuesday afternoon after an online attack on the company’s domain name registrar, Melbourne IT. The attack also forced employees of The Times to stop sending out sensitive e-mails."
"In terms of the sophistication of the attack, this is a big deal. It’s sort of like breaking into the local savings and loan versus breaking into Fort Knox. A domain registrar should have extremely tight security because they are holding the security to hundreds if not thousands of Web sites."
It's fascinating to me that the NYT used Melbourne IT for its registration — presumably there was a good deal going — and as Business Insider notes, it's more proof that the Internet makes the world a somewhat smaller space.
So how did the NYT make the statement without a site?
The Times's work around is relatively simple. The internet as we know it relies on the Domain Name System (DNS) to direct us to the location of websites that are actually located at a numerical IP address. NYTimes.com, for instance, simply points you to servers located at 126.96.36.199. So when hackers manage to hijack a domain — which is apparently what happened with this latest Times hack — the IP address and everything on the servers that it points to remains intact. (Pro Tip: If NYTimes.com isn't working for you, you can just type in the IP address and access the entire site.)
So what about that hack? It appears that the Syrian Electronic Army got ahold of The New York Times's domain and rerouted it to one of its own sites. A Times spokesperson said soon after the outage that the trouble was "likely result of malicious external attack." However, malice can't trump quick thinking.
As service remains intermittent, the Syrian Electronic Army allegation is starting to look more likely. Some users reported seeing this graphic when trying to visit The Times's website:
Meanwhile, The Times continues to publish articles about the violence and injustice in Syria.
Image: Adam Kinney