Since we broke the story on CNN’s site outtage in China yesterday, the story was picked up by top US blogs such as Mashable and Gawker, although mainstream media continue to be
strangely silent blissfully unaware of what happened. CNN’s PR machine has since leapt into action as it seeks to explain what happened. This morning we received an email from CNN Worldwide’s Director of Public Relations, Jennifer L. Martin, directing our attention to their report of yesterday’s event here. In case some of you still have problems accessing the site, here it is:
CNN was targeted Thursday by attempts to interrupt its news Web site, resulting in countermeasures that caused the service to be slow or unavailable to some users in limited areas of Asia.
“CNN took preventative measures to filter traffic in response to attempts to disrupt our Web site. A small percentage of CNN.com users in Asia are impacted,” the network said in a statement.
“We do not know who is responsible, nor can we confirm where it came from,” the statement continued.
A CNN spokesman said the Web site began to notice problems around midday Thursday and took measures to isolate the trouble by limiting the number of users who could access it from specific geographic areas.
As a result, he said, some users in those areas experienced temporary slowdowns or problems accessing the site.
The spokesman could not offer an estimate of how many users were affected. However, he said that the impact on daily usage was “imperceptible” and that the site “at no time” went down.
Service had returned to normal by mid-morning Friday, he said.
The attempt came as tech-oriented Web sites in Asia were reporting calls from hacker groups in China for denial-of-service attacks to be launched against the CNN Web site on Saturday over the network’s coverage of unrest in Tibet.
Angry Chinese bloggers have accused CNN and several other Western news organizations of being unfair in covering recent pro-independence protests in Tibet, which is controlled by China.
In response, the network released a statement noting that “CNN’s reputation is based on reporting global news accurately and impartially, while our coverage through the use of words, images or video always reflects a wide range of opinions and points of view on every story.”
In a denial-of-service attack, hackers use automated programs to try to jam a site with bogus requests for service to the point that service is slowed or interrupted for legitimate users.
Several observations by Shanghaiist:
1. The report made no mention of the extent of the site outtage in terms of geographic reach, and would only reveal that “some users in limited areas of Asia” were affected. From comments left by users on our story, the site was inaccessible not just in China, but as far as Hong Kong and Japan (not within the reach of the Great Firewall).
2. CNN reports that its own spokesman “could not offer an estimate of how many users were affected”, that the impact on daily usage was “imperceptible”, and that only a “small percentage of CNN.com users in Asia are impacted”. No specific numbers. We recommend they try out this wonderful product called Google Analytics.
3. CNN’s report refused to pinpoint who it thought was responsible: “We do not know who is responsible, nor can we confirm where it came from,” said the statement, but the report leaves readers to make up their own minds with these words a few paragraphs down:
“The attempt came as tech-oriented Web sites in Asia were reporting calls from hacker groups in China for denial-of-service attacks to be launched against the CNN Web site on Saturday over the network’s coverage of unrest in Tibet.”
As far as Shanghaiist can tell, the tech-oriented Asian websites that reported on the Chinese hacker movements were mostly small and relatively unknown blogs, but the two most significant reports were one by Computerworld and another by CNN itself. Surely, they could have seen it coming. Or maybe they didn’t want to stir up any more anti-CNN shit in China after the Jack Cafferty saga.
4. The reports we can find in the Chinese media on the incident so far were all BEFORE yesterday’s site outtage. One report by the Global Times 《环球时报》entitled “Yet another report of threats by Chinese hackers; Chinese hackers say CNN is lying” (又渲染”中国黑客威胁论” 中国黑客:CNN完全”瞎说”). In it, the Chinese hacker Xiao Chen (萧晨) who was quoted in John Vause’s story alleges that CNN was intentionally writing negative reports on Chinese hacker activities. Xiao says Vause asked him pointed questions such as “Are you able to show me network going on within the US Defense Ministry’s intranet?” (“你们能不能把从美国国防部内部网络上下载的数据给我看一眼”) and “Is the government funding your website to attack foreign websites?” (“是不是政府给你们的网站付费让你们来攻击海外敏感网站”). Xiao Chen answered “No” to all these questions and added:
“Our website is simply an exchange platform for hackers. Nobody is instructing anyone to hack any specific website and we have never done such a thing ourselves, including attacking the US Defense Ministry’s intranet.”
“I only told him that no COMPUTER is 100% safe, and in his report, he said I said that no WEBSITE is 100% safe. I only told him that we were a motley crew of people operating this website, and he claimed in his report that the government was funding us. In truth, our website only receives very limited advertising revenue, and we were hoping for funding from venture capitalists.”
5. Another report by the Shanghai Morning Post 《新闻晨报》(via Sohu News) added that Xiao Chen had to close down his hacker site, 黑客天下, because of CNN’s “negative report” but as far as we can see, the website is still up and running. It also quotes Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦刚) as saying all reports on Chinese hacker groups were “baseless” and “not backed by evidence” and that the Chinese government or military would “never employ the services of hacker groups to attack the websites of foreign governments”.
6. Nobody has yet offered an explanation as to why satellite dish owners were unable to receive CNN.
7. Okay, this is completely off topic, but hey it’s Saturday. Gawker reports that CNN’s “token Brit” and “the most unpleasant ‘funny’ on-air CNN correspondent EVER“, was arrested outside Central Park for meth.
Photo from vidiot