It has been an odd day for Newsweek – its main site was taken offline after it published a story claiming a company owned by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump broke an embargo against doing deals with Cuba.
The magazine first thought that the sheer volume of interest in its scoop was the cause for the outage, but quickly realized that something more sinister was afoot.
The site was being bombarded by junk traffic from servers all around the world, but the majority came from Russia, the editor in chief Jim Impoco has now said.
"Last night we were on the receiving end of what our IT chief called a 'massive' DoS [denial of service] attack," he told Talking Points Memo.
"As with any DDoS [distributed DoS] attack, there are lots of IP addresses, but the main ones are Russian, though that in itself does not prove anything. We are still investigating."
The story, written by staffer Kurt Eichenwald, detailed how former employees of Trump Hotels had arranged a visit to Cuba in 1998 to explore the possibility of joint ventures with the communist regime. A consultancy company called Seven Arrows made the visit, and the funds to pay for the trip were then allegedly hidden as a charitable expense.
Shortly after the story was published, traffic on the site started to rise – as you'd expect in a presidential season with serious allegations being made. But the traffic count continued to rise and eventually brought the site down.
To make clear: @Newsweek posted story on Trump/Cuba. Hackers attacked, took site down. Lots of IP addresses involved. Main ones from Russia.— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) September 30, 2016
As with any DDoS attack, finding the culprit is nearly impossible. But it appears that the article has pissed off a lot of people who control many Russian servers. ®