A hacking attack by the Syrian Electronic Army, a group which supports the regime of President Bashar Al Assad, is believed to have been behind the crashing of Western websites, including Twitter, Huffington Post, and the New York Times.
The Twitter profile SyrianElectronicArmy (@Official_SEA16) wrote: “Twitter.ae is going down” at about 3am Wednesday morning, and users reported problems from about 8am yesterday morning.
The PC interface for Twitter was still experiencing problems displaying on Wednesday afternoon, but users were able to use the site from mobile applications.
McCollins Media director Meghna Kothari said hacks such as these were a “huge risk” for agencies managing the reputation of global and multinational clients, as often offensive messages were sent out to followers of clients by the hackers.
“That has a huge affect on your business.”
However, there were preventative measures that could be taken to protect your accounts, she said.
“A lot of people don’t give a lot of importance to changing their passwords frequently, or if they do, they don’t make sure they’re case sensitive or strong enough.”
Anyone who was managing Twitter accounts for clients should ensure they had their notifications on at all times, so they could track Tweets constantly and take immediate action if there were any problems.
Clients, colleagues and followers should also be notified immediately if you had been hacked, she added.
UAE resident Ali Ahmed Saeed said he experienced problems just after midnight, on Wednesday morning.
“I was watching a football match and as I usually do I check my timeline every second to get any update about the match.”
He realised his friend’s tweets were taking longer than normal to reach his timeline, and when a friend asked the Twitter community if anyone else was experiencing problems, it became clear it “was an international problem”, he added.
He said it was frustrating as he used the site to get sports news and keep up to date about what was happening in the field.
On Wednesday night, it “look(ed) like it was putting all my timeline tweets in a bowl, mixing it up and then returning to my timeline”, he added.
The SyrianElectronicArmy account continued to claim its successes, and retweeted a tweet from Matthew Keys who tweeted that the group had confirmed they compromised Melbourne IT, an Australian company the companies affected registered their domains with, giving them access to NYTimes, Twitter (and) others, as well as posting a picture of blank black screen to show “How Twitter looks like when the twing.com (one of the domains Twitter uses for image serving) was down”.
British national newspaper The Independent reported on Wednesday that this was the latest in a series of attacks against organisations believed to be sympathetic to Syrian rebels, but was “far more serious and sophisticated”.
A statement from Twitter said that one of the domains it uses for image serving, twimg.com, was targeted, and that while “viewing of images and photos was sporadically impacted”, the original site was restored in under two hours, the Independent reported.
The Associated Press also reported that an SEA activist confirmed its involvement with an email, saying: “I can’t say how, but yes we did hit Melbourne IT.”
The NYTimes website was also reported to be down for a number of hours.
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