NEW YORK — The New York Times website was unavailable to readers on Tuesday afternoon after an online attack on the company’s domain name registrar, Melbourne IT. The attack also forced employees of The Times to take care in sending e-mails.
Marc Frons, chief information officer for The New York Times Co., issued a statement at 4:20 p.m. warning employees that the disruption — which appeared to still be affecting the website well into the evening — was “the result of a malicious external attack.” He advised employees to “be careful when sending e-mail communications until this situation is resolved.”
In an interview, Frons said the attack was carried out by a group known as “the Syrian Electronic Army, or someone trying very hard to be them.”
The website first went down after 3 p.m.; once service was restored, the hackers quickly disrupted the site again. Shortly after 6 p.m., Frons said that “we believe that we are on the road to fixing the problem.”
The Syrian Electronic Army is made up of hackers who support President Bashar Assad of Syria.
Until now, The Times has been spared from being hacked by the SEA, which has successfully disrupted the Web operations of news organizations including The Financial Times.
“In terms of the sophistication of the attack, this is a big deal,” said Frons. “It’s sort of like breaking into the local savings and loan versus breaking into Fort Knox. A domain registrar should have extremely tight security because they are holding the security to hundreds if not thousands of websites.”