Washington Post Hacked, Syrian Electronic Army Claims Responsibility

Aug 15, 2013 12:43pm

The Washington Post announced today it briefly fell victim to a cyber attack that suddenly forced some of its readers to the website of the Syrian Electronic Army, a pro-Assad hacker collective.

The announcement came in an Editor’s Note titled “Technical Difficulties” posted on the historic newspaper’s website. “The Post is working to resolve the issue,” the paper said. Later, the paper printed an update that said the attack was successful for about half an hour but the issue has been resolved.

A Twitter account allegedly belonging to the SEA claimed responsibility for the attack on the Washington Post as well as attacks on the websites for CNN and TIME. Those websites appeared to be functioning normally as of this report.

The SEA Twitter account claimed it was able to hit all three websites at once by attacking Outbrain, a content recommendation service that The Washington Post described as a “business partner”. Outbrian acknowledged the attack on its own Twitter feed and announced it has suspended its recommendation service.

In recent months the SEA has publicly taken credit for a series of high-profile cyber assaults including taking over the Twitter feeds of prominent organizations like The Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Post and the satirical news site The Onion.

According to published interviews with a self-proclaimed member of the group, the loose organization of college-aged hackers formed in 2011 as the country descended into civil war.

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Though industry analysts have suggested the group is linked to the embattled Syrian government, the member claims they are not connected and receive no funding from the government. He said the hackers came together freely to combat what they saw as “the fabrication of facts” in Western media.

“We want to [show] the world the truth about what is happening in Syria,” the member told The Daily Beast Wednesday. “There is no revolution in Syria, but terrorist groups killing people [and] accusing the Syrian Arab Army.”

The attack on the Washington Post followed a brief period Wednesday when The New York Times website went down due to what the Times said on Twitter were “technical difficulties.” In a blog post published late Wednesday, the Times said the outage was not caused by a cyber attack, but was a failure “during regular maintenance.”

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