Al-Jazeera, the Doha-based broadcaster owned by the ruling family of Qatar, says the websites and digital platforms of Al Jazeera Media Network, its parent company, “are undergoing systematic and continual hacking attempts.”
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) June 8, 2017
“These attempts are gaining intensity and taking various forms. However, the platforms have not been compromised,” the broadcaster said in a statement that followed tweets claiming “Entire Doha-based network undergoing ‘continual hacking attempts’,” and that “all systems, websites & social media platforms.”
Problems accessing Al-Jazeera’s website
Some have noted that they had trouble accessing Al-Jazeera’s website, and a researcher pointed out that this might be due to two out of three of Al Jazeera’s primary name servers being unresponsive to DNS.
The reason for this unresponsiveness could be a DDoS attack, but also something less sinister, like a network or operator failure.
Was there an attack?
This right here is the problem with attack attribution of hacking attacks. It’s not easy to prove who is behind an attack, or whether an attack has actually happened.
We just need to look at the recent situation the FCC found itself in: its website has experienced downtime just as many commenters rushed to post their opinion on the agency’s plan to eliminate the current net neutrality rules.
The FCC claimed they were DDoSed by “external actors,” but have offered no proof of that claim. But even if their claim turns out to be true, the attack was at least partially aided by those commenters, as well as spam bots that flooded the site with comments arguing against net neutrality.
In cases like this one, the public is left to make their own minds on the “news”, and their conclusions are based on their beliefs and biases. Unfortunately, this is how you get fake news and “fake news.” And, at the moment, there is no good solution for that problem.
Real news or fake news?
This situation also makes for the increased volatility of the political and actual situation around the world.
The current situation in the Arabian Peninsula is a good example. Ignited by fake news posted on the website and social media accounts of Qatar’s official news agency following an (alleged) hack (supposedly by Russian hackers), the current state of affairs sees some Persian Gulf states (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain), as well some members of the Arab League (Mauritania, Egypt, Jordan), cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar.
Hackers – whether state-sponsored or not – are changing the face of the world. The changes are hitting fast and hard, and we’re left reeling – not least because it becomes increasingly hard to sift through the news and (relatively surely) tell what’s true and what’s not.