SAN JOSE, California (AP) — Readers who tried to click on the New York Times' website got nothing but error messages for several hours during the site's second major disruption this month, and people also had trouble accessing Twitter. A hacker group calling itself the "Syrian Electronic Army" claimed responsibility.
Within minutes of Tuesday's attack, the New York Times quickly set up alternative websites, posting stories about chemical attacks in Syria. "Not Easy to Hide a Chemical Attack, Experts Say," was the headline of one. The service was restored early Wednesday.
"Our Web site was unavailable to users in the United States for a time on Tuesday," the newspaper said in a post on its website. "The disruption was the result of an external attack on our domain name registrar, and we are at work on fully restoring service. We regret if this has caused you any inconvenience."
The cyberattacks come at a time when the Obama administration is trying to bolster its case for possible military action against Syria, where the administration says President Bashar Assad's government is responsible for a deadly chemical attack on civilians. Assad denies the claim.
"Media is going down ..." warned the Syrian Electronic Army in a Twitter message before the websites stopped working, adding that it also had taken over Twitter and the Huffington Post U.K.
Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said the disruption was caused by a "malicious external attack" that affected its website and email, while Twitter spokesman Jim Prosser said the viewing of images and photos was sporadically affected. Huffington Post U.K. did not respond to requests for comment.
Both Twitter and the Times said they were resolving the attack, which actually hit an Australian company that registered their domain names, Melbourne IT.
Theo Hnarakis, chief executive of Melbourne IT, the world's sixth largest registrar of Internet domain names, said the security breach occurred at a major-U.S.-based global reseller, or domain agent, where the hackers launched a "spear phishing attack" within the past week to steal the log-in details of the New York Times and Twitter domains.