It takes more than a hacker to silence the press

It takes more than a hacker to silence the press

Someone launched a cyber attack on The Jewish Chronicle’s Web site. The hackers replaced graphics on the home page with a Palestinian flag and the words “Hacked by Palestinian Mujaheeds.”
A message the hackers posted on the Chronicle site, both in Turkish and very poor English, spewed quotes from the Koran and anti-Semitic attacks.
Relax; I’m not talking about this Jewish Chronicle. The Sunday, Jan. 17, attack was very real indeed, but it was launched against The London Jewish Chronicle, the largest Jewish newspaper in Britain, and, just as an aside, the namesake of The Jewish Chronicle in Pittsburgh.
According to the London Jewish Chronicle, also known as the JC, the attack may have been launched from Turkey as a reprisal for a rebuff Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon gave the Turkish ambassador to Israel last week. Ayalon was angry over recent fallacious attacks on Israeli soldiers on Turkish television.
Wherever the attack originated, the JC reported that there was “no serious breach” of the security of the Web site, which is again up and functioning.
And it certainly didn’t silence the JC.
As my colleague, London Jewish Chronicle Editor Stephen Pollard, wrote following the incident: “Only those without the confidence to win an argument resort to such tactics. And it was a pretty self-defeating attempt to silence us. Our site was down for a few hours, but as a result we will get more readers than ever before.”
This is how thugs try to silence the press in the 21st century. In the heyday of newspapers, around the world, reporters were threatened, their papers stolen and their presses destroyed — anything to intimidate editor and writer alike.
These days, why resort to muscle when there are easily influenced computer geeks with too much time on their hands?
Last week, in a modern version of media intimidation, hackers in China, quite possibly working for the government, launched “highly sophisticated” cyber attacks on Google, seeking personal information on human rights activists. As a result, Google may now pull out of China. Google 1, China 0.
Now, faceless, anti-Israel bigots are getting into the hacking game.
It’s possible we’ll see more attacks like this by anti-Israel groups. You don’t have to be al-Qaida to find a way into the back end of newsroom Web sites and create a little havoc.
Those attacks could be launched against news groups in metro centers like New York or provincial cities, like Pittsburgh. They may even be successful in knocking us off line for a while.
But only for a while. Newsmen (and women) are pretty resilient people, and we always find a way to get the word out. We may even have a few tricks of our own to bypass cyber attacks.
The media should actually take inspiration from the JC incident. Our colleagues in London took a right hook from these online terrorists and they’re still covering the news. Power to the press!

(Lee Chottiner, the executive editor of The Jewish Chronicle, can be reached at or at 412-687-1000 ext. 304. This column will be posted on The Chronicle blog, Yinz/Yidz.)

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