x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Cyberattack hits whistleblower website WikiLeaks

The website, responsible for making public US intelligence and diplomatic information on Sunday, remains online after switching its hosting servers from Sweden to the US.

NEW YORK // The WikiLeaks website said it came under a forceful Internet-based attack on Tuesday morning, making it inaccessible for hours to users in the US and Europe.

The site appears to have responded by switching its main hosting base from Sweden to the US, making it available again.

On Tuesday, traffic to the site went to Amazon.com Inc.'s server-for-rent service, based in the US

The site, which distributed a trove of US diplomatic documents on Sunday, said in a Twitter message on Tuesday morning that it was under a "distributed denial of service attack," a method commonly used by hackers to slow down or bring down sites. WikiLeaks didn't identify the attackers.

The site, which is devoted to releasing anonymously submitted documents, also came under attack Sunday, but Tuesday's attack appeared to be more powerful.

Calls to Amazon.com were not immediately returned. Bahnhof, the Swedish Internet company that has been WikiLeaks' main host, had no immediate comment on Tuesday.

In a typical denial-of-service attack, remote computers commandeered by rogue programs bombard a website with so many data packets that it becomes overwhelmed and unavailable to visitors. Pinpointing the culprits is difficult.

WikiLeaks said the malicious traffic was coming in at 10 gigabits per second on Tuesday, which would make it a relatively large effort. According to a study by Internet security company Arbor Networks, the average denial of service attack over the past year was 349 megabits per second, 28 times slower than the stream Wikileaks reported.

Sunday's attack didn't stop the publication of stories based on messages leaked from the US State Department in several major newspapers. WikiLeaks had given the media outlets prior access to the diplomatic cables to publish in conjunction with their Sunday release on its site.

The cables, many of them classified, offer candid, sometimes unflattering assessments of foreign leaders, ranging from US allies such as Germany and Italy to other nations like Libya, Iran and Afghanistan.