New York Times Cyber-Attack Reminds Data Centers of Security Importance

The New York Times’ website,, experienced a 90-minute outage on August 14, 2013. Originally, the New York Times reported that the problem was with one of their servers, caused by a failure during a regular maintenance check. Two weeks later, the well-renowned newspaper admitted that an “external malicious attack” was really the root of the problem.

The website went down again on August 27, this time lasting for about 20 hours.

The cyber-attack on the Times appears to be one of many caused by the same source: The Wall Street Journal experienced issues with its Twitter account and The Washington Post had website issues just after the Times. This week, the Syrian Electronic Army took credit for these series of attacks, as well as hacking the Associated Press’s Twitter account some time ago. The Huffington Post, CNN, Time magazine, and Twitter itself have reported similar attacks on their websites.

The hackers appear to have gained access to the Times’ website through Melbourne IT, an Australian-based website domain registration company. The SEA continued to report their progress and intentions through their own Twitter account. The group is loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, and claims they wanted to deliver an anti-war message through the Times’ Twitter. The SEA’s website and domain are both down now because they violated their registration agreement.

Although the attacks appear to be very sophisticated, Gunter Ollmann, chief technology officer of IOActive, explains that the DNS (domain name system) is a vulnerable spot in security. Complex media websites like the Times create further vulnerabilities to hacker attacks through added software and content from partners, such as widget creators and advertisers. Some worry that the entire system of DNS companies is losing trust due to security issues, but Melbourne IT insists that it is on top the of the problem and trying to identify the party that broke into their information.

The attack and subsequent outages caused the shares of the New York Times Co. to drop 2.85%. The newspaper is continuing to publish articles on another website:

Technology companies, such as Fibernet Corp, need to ensure security for all of their customers, as they house vital information. Fibernet is one of the few data centers in the world that is both PCI complaint and SOC1 Type II certified, which guarantees that customers’ financial information will be secure. Our data centers are protected from cyber-attacks by the most up-to-date security software available. We monitor our systems 24/7 to further ward off any vulnerability.


Egan, Matt and Booton, Jennifer. “Source: New York Times Website Hit by Cyber Attack.” (28 August 2013).

Egan, Matt and Craig, Victoria. “Apparent Cyber Attack Hits New York Times.” (28 August 2013).

Kelly, Heather. “Syrian group cited as New York Times outage continues.” (28 August 2013).

Yu, Roger and O’Donnell, Jayne. “’New York Times’ site being restored after cyberattack.” (28 August 2013.)