x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

UAE twitter disruption blamed on Syrian hackers' US attack

Users of one of the world's most popular social media sites have been experiencing problems with the service this morning.

Twitter users had no problems via their smartphones, but users on computers were today complaining of problems. Reuters/Dado Ruvic
Twitter users had no problems via their smartphones, but users on computers were today complaining of problems. Reuters/Dado Ruvic

ABU DHABI //Users of one of the world's most popular social media sites have been experiencing problems with the service this morning.

The browser-based version of Twitter was non-responsive to many in the UAE from just after 8am on Wednesday.

Problems were also reported by users of Tweetdeck, a social media management site.

However, users of Twitter's smartphone apps were still able to view and create posts as normal.

One person, Farrukh Naeem, tweeted "Is it just me or @twitter (PC interface) is broken for a lot of people today?"

Another UAE user @badarkf posted: “my #twitter app’s not displaying pictures embedded into tweets. Anyone else facing the same issue?

Users across the world reported that they were having problems viewing users’ profile pictures on the social media site, however the problem in the UAE extend to the whole website on certain platforms.

The cause of the fault has not yet been made clear however the problems come amid widespread disruption to a number of online media outlets over the past 24 hours.

According to news agency Reuters, Syrian hackers gained access to Twitter, the website of the New York Times and the Huffington Post.

The suspected group, the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), claimed to have taken control of parts of the sites on its Twitter feed: @official_SEA16.

At around 3am (UAE time) the account posted a message stating:

twitter.ae is going down

Shortly before the message came – seemingly directly targeting the .ae (arab emirates) domain name version of the site, the account posted:

@twitter, are you ready?

Reuters reports that they did this by penetrating MelbourneIT, an Australian Internet service provider that sells and manages domain names including Twitter.com and NYTimes.

Some users in the UAE were still unable to access the newspaper’s website www.nytimes.com at 12pm on Wednesday – although reports other news sources claimed parts of the site were back online.

In a blog post, Twitter said "it appears DNS (domain name system) records for various organizations were modified, including one of Twitter's domains used for image serving, Twimg.com. Viewing of images and photos was sporadically impacted."

New York Times Co NYT.N spokeswoman Eileen Murphy tweeted the "issue is most likely the result of a malicious external attack", based on an initial assessment.

The attacks seem timed to coincide with discussions by Western governments to take action against the Syrian government for alleged use of chemical weapons.

KSinclair@thenational.ae