The New York Times and Twitter have been hit with cyberattacks, with credit quickly claimed by a group backing embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Times site remained out of service early yesterday following the attacks, which began on Tuesday.
The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), ironically, used Twitter to tout its efforts to take down the globally popular one-to-many messaging service and the Times news Web site.
“Media is going down,” a message on the SEA Twitter account said. “Twitter, are you ready?”
While it was not clear if the attacks were in fact the work of Syrian cyberpirates, they come as the US appears to be gearing up for military action against al-Assad’s regime as punishment for what Washington says is unquestionable evidence it used chemical weapons against civilians in the country’s grinding 29-month war.
The SEA has made itself known in recent months, hacking the Twitter account of The Associated Press to put out a false tweet saying US President Barack Obama had been hurt in two explosions at the White House.
The Syrian Electronic Army has also targeted the Twitter account of the AFP photo service, as well as social media at the BBC and al-Jazeera, and the Financial Times and Guardian newspapers.
On its own Web site the SEA said it defends the Syrian Arab people from campaigns led by Arab and Western media.
The cyberattack was evidently aimed at the Domain Name System (DNS), which acts as a directory of sorts for routing online traffic to Web site addresses. Hackers can hijack Web traffic by altering DNS address information to send visitors to sites of their choosing.
An Australian domain registration service appeared to have been hit in the attack.
“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,” Twitter said in a post on its status blog.
The trouble was resolved within two hours, according to Twitter.
The New York Times said that its site went down on Tuesday due to a “malicious external attack.”
The newspaper’s main Twitter account said on Tuesday afternoon that the Web site “is experiencing technical difficulties,” but that news was still being published via Twitter and other links.
The Washington Post Web site was hacked this month in an attack blamed on the SEA.