For Once It Wasn't the Syrian Electronic Army: New York Times Pegs Outage on 'Internal Issue'

Suggests Site Wasn't Tackled by Syrian Electronic Army or Other Hackers

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The New York Times, whose website and e-mail systems crashed this morning, said the outage was caused by "an internal issue" with its servers, signaling that it wasn't the result of a suspected hacker attack.

How The Times website appeared Wednesday morning
How The Times website appeared Wednesday morning

"We believe the outage is the result of an internal issue, which we expect to be resolved soon," the Times said in a Twitter post.

[Update: A Times spokeswoman said in an email later that a routine update may have been to blame. "The outage to our Web site occurred within seconds of a scheduled maintenance update, which we believe was the cause," she said in an email.]

The site went down before 11:30 a.m. New York time. It seemed to be restored for many users by the afternoon.

Fox Business, the network owned by Rupert Murdoch's Twenty-First Century Fox, reported that the site had been hacked, suggesting that it was the victim of a denial-of-service attack. Fox Business cited an unidentified source close to the matter.

The outage was poorly timed, both because of news breaking in Egypt and because the Times had recently posted its latest experiment in multimedia storytelling, a 10,000-word profile about horse racing legend Russell Baze. The story, called "The Jockey," features video and photography and required months of reporting and web development.

The Times has been increasingly focusing on its website for growth as the industry reels from a print advertising slump. Digital subscribers to the Times and its international edition increased 35% to 699,000 at the end of the last quarter. The company has sold off all assets unrelated to the Times media brand, including the Boston Globe newspaper.

Some Times staffers made light of the website outage on Twitter.

Hackers calling themselves the Syrian Electronic Army have previously taken over social media accounts for news organizations including the Financial Times and the Associated Press, and wrote "Syrian Electronic Army Was Here" on NPR's home page. Earlier this month it broke into a reporter's blog for Britain's Channel 4 and posted a false story about nuclear strikes on Syria. Taking down the entire Times website, however, would seem an order above its normal level of mischief.

~ Bloomberg News and Ad Age staff ~

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