For a short time on Tuesday the website of the New York Times was inaccessible to many people. It’s apparently the victim of an attack by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), the group of hackers that supports Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and who started out by hacking their ideological foes before it occurred to them they’d get more press by going after more visible targets.
But here’s the thing: Unlike previous attacks by the SEA, for example against theTwitter accounts of The Guardian, it seems more likely that this time, the SEA didn’t manage to filch passwords from anyone within the Times itself. As the Times itself has just reported, there has been an “attack on the company’s domain name registrar, Melbourne IT.” The same registrar apparently also hosts the domain names of other sites the SEA claims to have hacked, including Twitter and the Huffington Post, which also experienced brief problems.
In plain English, Melbourne IT is the company that the New York Times pays to be the steward of the numerical roadmap that tells every computer on the internet—including the one on which you’re reading this—how to find the servers that host the website of the New York Times. These servers are identified by an IP address, a unique set of numbers. You can use IP addresses directly if you know them; typing http://126.96.36.199 into your browser should get you to a relatively intact version of the New York Times’ site.