The New York Times website was hacked for the second time in a month, and this time a Syrian hacker group is claiming responsibility. The, group calling themselves the Syrian Electronic Army, hacked the newspapers DNS and took over the site, replacing the homepage with the groups logo and the words “Hacked by Syrian Electronic Army”. The group bills itself as supporters of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and says they conduct such attacks to bring a pro-government perspective to the media. In 2013 alone they hacked the Washington Post, Financial Times, and CNN and have spammed pages for popular figured like Oprah and the President of the United States with pro-government slogans and propaganda. They also hijacked the Associated Press’s Twitter account and caused a brief panic on Wall Street when they posted fake news reports of bombings at the White House.
According to reports the group was also able to hack Twitter and replace the administrative contact info in its domain registration with its own, making it look like, for a brief time, that the SEA owned Twitter.
The NYTimes.com site was down for several hours, and chief competitor the Wall Street Journal wasted no time in taking advantage of it’s misfortune, taking to social media to invite everyone for a “free read” and announce they’d dropped their paywall. Obviously they were hoping the NYT’s readership would be looking for somewhere else to get their news fix. They may also be hoping the multiple outages damage user trust enough so that they abandon the site totally, but that seems unlikely.
The SEA says it may focus on the Huffington Post next, and other major news outlets are likely in its sights. While they may feel they are getting their pro-Assad messages across, they really aren't. People are paying attention to the annoyance and inconvenience, nothing more, and after the news reports about the alleged chemical attacks in Syria, the government there is likely to receive scorn and outrage, not sympathy