x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Al Arabiya wins website court order

Domain name to be returned to network after security breach.

A court in the US ordered that the internet domain name alarabiya.net, which was hijacked last Friday, be returned to Al Arabiya television news network. Al Arabiya, based in Dubai, sought court relief after someone transferred Al Arabiya's domain registration by compromising its account with the US registrar Network Solutions. People trying to reach alarabiya.net were directed to an unauthorised website, on which was posted a warning to Sunnis who compromised as many as 300 Shiite websites last month, most notably the site of Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, an Iranian-born Shiite cleric who has played a major role in Iraqi politics for the past five years.

"Serious warning: If attacks on Shia websites continue, none of your websites will be safe," the warning said, in English and Arabic, accompanied by an image of a burning Israeli flag. Network Solutions told Al Arabiya, which is partly owned by the Saudi broadcasting company Middle East Broadcasting Centre, that it would need a court order to permanently reclaim its domain name. The court order, said Ammar Bakkar, editor in chief of the website, provided legal proof that ownership of the domain name was transferred illegally.

Al Arabiya, the Arab world's second-most-popular satellite television news source after al Jazeera, has struggled with the perception that it speaks for the Saudi investors who launched it in 2003. The channel's Tehran bureau chief was ordered out of Iran last month after a controversial film about Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was broadcast. Mr Bakkar said Network Solutions and Al Arabiya still did not know how the company's security system was breached.

In an emailed statement, Network Solutions blamed Al Arabiya itself for the breach, in part. "In reviewing the Al Arabiya account activity, it appears that their login information was compromised by a third party," Network Solutions said in a statement. "The unauthorised access was not due to a breach in our systems." Mr Bakkar acknowledged that Al Arabiya could have done more to protect its domain name.

Most important, it could have "locked" the alarabiya.net account. @Email:mbradley@thenational.ae