Al-Jazeera hacked in DoS attack

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Qatari news broadcaster Al-Jazeera -- sometimes called the Arab CNN -- has again been hit by hackers, with its computer network compromised by trojans causing Denial of Service (DoS) attacks on its global customer base, including in Australia.

Qatari news broadcaster Al-Jazeera -- sometimes called the Arab CNN -- has again been hit by hackers, with its computers compromised by trojans causing Denial of Service (DoS) attacks on its global customers, including in Australia.

UK-based security analyst mi2g said that it had received reports and evidence from "reliable sources" that hundreds of identical emails every hour had been sent from specific email accounts.

The resulting DoS attacks had brought down normal business services at targeted internet accounts in the western world as a result, mi2g said.

"Al-Jazeera, the at-times controversial Arab news satellite channel, has had its computer network compromised by trojans with inbuilt mail relay engines since the Arab weekend began on Friday 14 January," mi2g said in a statement.

The problem persisted on Saturday and Sunday but seemed to be dissipating Monday morning, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), as email blocks were set up downstream. No "official response" from Al-Jazeera about the attacks had been received by mi2g at the time of writing.

Individual email accounts at the news network had appeared to have been unknowingly originating the DoS attacks.

"The nearly 72 hours window during which the DoS has been active is particularly worrisome because most corporations update their anti-virus tool kits every 24 hours at least and run scans," mi2g  said.

"The more vigilant ones run the updates and scan regimes every six hours. Furthermore, corporate networks have extra layers of relay filtering and traffic monitoring which especially look out for repeat sends of identical messages and are programmed to stop such anomalous patterns from being executed.

"In the case of Al-Jazeera none of these preventative measures seem to be in place."

Al-Jazeera's website has previously been hacked. In late March 2003, after Al-Jazeera had broadcast images of American soldiers captured by Iraqi forces in the early phase of the latest Iraq-US war, its website was brought down by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.

The Qatari news network -- founded by ex-BBC staffers in the Middle East in the 1990s -- has been heavily criticised by commentators on both sides of the Arab-Western political divide for its controversial style.

mi2g's intelligence unit reportedly discovered the latest attack when one of its own emails was not delivered to a regular business contact. A message came back saying the mailbox was full. However, the customer told mi2g that it believed it was under a DoS attack originating with Al-Jazeera.

"Since then select sources have confirmed the problem in the US, UK and Australia through emails, internet-relay-chat and private bulletin boards. The governments of all three countries support the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq through a joint coalition," mi2g said.

mi2g went on to accuse Al-Jazeera of running its network like a "matchbox organisation".

"The mi2g Intelligence Unit has case history of similar recklessness and social irresponsibility originating from Western news agencies between 1997 and 1999, especially during the NATO-Serbia war and its cyber fallout. However, western news agencies learnt very fast when they came under pressure from their customers and interlocutors in terms of law suit threats," it said.

"If certain political powers find Al-Jazeera to be a pain in their backside, and there are some who have gone on record to say that they do, there are clear ways as a result of observing the recent DoS attacks that can be utilised to quieten them easily and anonymously," mi2g said.




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