The New York Times website went down yesterday afternoon, apparently the result of “a malicious external attack” by the Syrian Electronic Army, the Times (which is now back) reported. The outage, which lasted well into the evening, was first reported around 3 p.m.
Some people who tried to refresh the site during the afternoon saw the icon of the Syrian Electronic Army and a message saying that the site had been hacked.
Times chief information officer Marc Frons released a statement at 4:20 p.m., informing Times employees of the attack and urging caution when sending emails. The Times posted articles onto a back up site news.nytco.com.
The Times is the just the latest news website to be targeted by the Syrian Electronic Army, a pro-government hacker group with a history of trolling. On August 15, the group targeted The Washington Post and attempted to disrupt CNN.com. The Syrian Electronic Army has also hacked into media organization’s Twitter feeds and The Financial Times.
Although yesterday was the first time that the group had successfully infiltrated the Times, it is not the first time that the news organization has had to deal with disruption to its website. Earlier this month, the Times went dark. Despite claims at the time that it had been hacked, the August 14 outage was attributed to website maintenance.
That earlier outage worked as a dry run for the Times to figure out how to publish articles without a functioning website. It also helped people on Twitter refine jokes about the Times site being down.
Here is our favorite from yesterday:
If a hipster pairs craft beer with slab bacon in Brooklyn while the New York Times website is down, does it really happen?—
Josh Greenman (@joshgreenman) August 27, 2013
And the earlier experience helped rival publications figure out how to take advantage of the Times outage.
Although the outage was actually worse yesterday than earlier this month (it lasted longer and was the result of hacking rather than maintenance), it took longer for people to notice. It is, after all, the last week of August.