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Newsweek suspects that attackers took down its site for hours on Thursday in order to bury a story about a company that Donald Trump owned decades ago.
The magazine claims that the company secretly did business in Cuba, even though that was illegal at the time.
Newsweek Editor-in-Chief Jim Impoco told Politico:
We don’t know everything. We’re still investigating.
But it was a massive DDoS attack, and it took place in the early evening just as prominent cable news programs were discussing Kurt Eichenwald’s explosive investigation into how Donald Trump’s company broke the law by breaking the United States embargo against Cuba.
A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack came, the newsmagazine suggests, in response to its cover story, “How Donald Trump’s company violated the United States embargo against Cuba.”
Details about the volume of the attack or what made it sophisticated were not immediately available. On Friday, Eichenwald described it as “a major attack on Newsweek.” Later in the afternoon, Eichenwald tweeted, “Lots of IP addresses involved. Main ones from Russia.”
In an e-mail to Ars, Impoco reiterated that the publication is “still investigating” and that investigators have “nothing definitive.
As with any DDoS attack, there are a lot of IP addresses, but the main ones are Russian.” He said it remains too early to say what significance, if any, comes from the large number of Russian IPs.
The IPs involved in a DDoS rarely say much about the parties perpetrating the attack, because the addresses are usually connected to computers that have been hacked and are participating in the assault without the end users’ knowledge.
Exceptions occasionally exist, however, as was the case a few years ago when members of the Anonymous hacking collective actively used software known as the Low Orbit Ion Cannon to disrupt government and corporate websites.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has blamed recent hacks on Russia, including one on the Democratic National Committee. Republican presidential candidate Trump said it could be China or “someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
The Newsweek attack comes about a week after KrebsOnSecurity, arguably the world’s most intrepid source of security news, was briefly silenced.
That attack was presumably the work of a handful of individuals who didn’t like a recent series of exposés written by reporter Brian Krebs.
Ars described the incident and the record-breaking data assault that brought it on as “a troubling new chapter in the short history of the Internet.” In recent weeks, security experts have uncovered botnets made up of network-connected cameras and other “Internet of Things” devices capable of bombarding a target with more than a terabit per second of junk traffic.
That’s three times bigger than records set just three months ago.
So far, there’s no indication that the attacks on Newsweek are related to previous attacks or contained the same staggering amount of firepower.