Newsweek suspects that it was targeted by hackers after an article about Donald Trump's company surreptitiously conducting business in Cuba in the 1990's was published. The magazine's site briefly crashed due to a "massive" DDoS attack, which was suspected to have been launched by hackers around the same time when the Trump article was being discussed by cable media outlets.
DDoS attacks are generally conducted by directing massive amounts of junk traffic onto a target's servers, in efforts to overwhelm the site and eventually shut down its ability to function effectively.
According to the magazine's editor in chief Jim Impoco, the main IP addresses involved in the hack were traced back to Russia. He said the probe was ongoing and yet to find any "definitve" evidence.
"We don't know everything. We're still investigating," Impoco told Politico. "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."
He added, "It would either be a big coincidence, or it had to do with this story. We were fortunate that some other sites picked up the story so that people could still read it."
Newsweek's article titled "How Donald Trump's company violated the United States embargo against Cuba," was published online around 5:3.0am on 29 September (Thursday). According to Impoco, a "fairly sophisticated" attack brought down the magazine's site, several hours post publication of the article. Impoco said that Newsweek's IT team worked through the night, in efforts to get the site back up online.
The article's author Kurt Eichenwald tweeted a post, clarifying that "lots of IP addresses" were involved in the attack that brought down the site, adding that the "main ones" came "from Russia."
DDoS attacks have recently experienced an alarming growth. Newsweek's attack comes on the heels the unprecedented two-week long DDoS attack, mounted against the blog site of cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs. Security experts have recently uncovered hackers leveraging vulnerable IoT devices to fashion an army of DDoS botnets capable of launching immense attacks on a given target.
It is still unclear if the attack on Newsweek also leveraged IoT botnets. The details about the volume of traffic directed at Newsweek, which resulted in the site's brief outage, is also still unknown.
Newsweek is owned by IBT Media, which runs a host of other titles including International Business Times UK.