NEW YORK — The New York Times’ website was experiencing widespread outages Tuesday afternoon as the apparent result of a malicious attack.
People on Twitter began reporting the site was down as early as 3 p.m. ET. The newspaper’s website was still not accessible to many desktop users almost three hours later. Some users also reported difficulty accessing the Times’ mobile site and apps.
The newspaper posted a message on its Facebook page about 5 p.m. ET that said, “Many users are having difficulty accessing The New York Times online. We are working to fix the problem. Our initial assessment is the outage is most likely the result of a malicious external attack.”
New York Times chief information officer Marc Frons sent the same statement internally to employees at 4:20 p.m. and advised them not to send out sensitive emails “until this situation is resolved,” according to a report by the New York Times.
Security threat researcher Matt Johansen of White Hat Security said on Twitter that he suspected the attack was the work of the Syrian Electronic Army, a group of hackers aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Several Twitter users posted screenshots of a “Hacked by SEA” message they said they received when they went to the New York Times homepage.
The Syrian Electronic Army has frequently targeted the U.S. news media. The group has hacked into the Twitter feeds of the Associated Press and The Washington Post, and on August 15 they briefly hacked the websites of several major news organizations, including CNN, redirecting them to a SEA page.
Tuesday’s episode was the Times’ second sustained website outage this month.The newspaper’s site also went down August 14 for several hours, an outage the newspaper blamed on “an internal issue.”