The Mail & Guardian Online, one of South Africa’s oldest and most respected sources of news and opinion, has been taken offline after an attack by Russian hackers that has, apparently, been building for several weeks.
Nic Dawes, Mail & Guardian editor, tweeted “The M&G website is under sustained attack by hackers. We’ve taken it offline to protect the security of users. Many apologies.”
Dawes followed up the tweet with a press release which stated: “It appears that the attack was carried out by a Russian organised crime group, which may want to use our servers as a base for scam operations and further malicious hacking. We cannot compromise the security of our users, or put at risk the trust they place in us.”
Chris Roper, editor of the site explained how the site was taken down around 10:30 on Wednesday morning. “Rather than compromise security, we’ve done a surgical takedown and redeploy of the site.
“There was big debate in the company over how we should deal with it. Ultimately we decided to take the knock now and go for a secure site in the future.”
Alistair Fairweather, digital platforms manager confirmed to Memeburn that the attack was a result of Russian hackers and that he doubted it was a political attack.
“They found a back door, which gave them direct access to the site. They are aiming to get people’s details and scam them, and for that reason we took the site down.”
Fairweather explained that the M&G will be moving to a completely new service and starting from scratch. “It’s the only way to be 100% certain that all the doors are closed.”
As an amusing aside, Roper tweeted moments later: “What you need when your site is under attack by hacker: key dev guy to suddenly get stung by a bee, and he’s allergic. Sheesh.”
At this stage, no-one has an idea of how long the site will be down.
Publisher of the M&G, Trevor Ncube, apologised to all users of the site, and tweeted sarcastically: “I suppose website hacking now qualifies as freedom of speech.”