BBC admits all websites ‘knocked offline by cyber attack’

The BBC's websites were hacked. Picture: PA
The BBC's websites were hacked. Picture: PA
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A technical issue that knocked all the BBC’s websites offline was the result of a cyber attack, the corporation said.

Visitors to sites including the BBC News website and the iPlayer service yesterday morning were greeted with an error message as pages failed to load.

An earlier statement put the fault down to a “technical issue”, but the BBC later reported that a web attack was behind the outage.

According to BBC News, sources inside the corporation said a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, which aims to knock a website offline by flooding it with web traffic until it can no longer cope and crashes, was the cause of the problem.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The corporation itself has declined to offer further comment on the incident, other than confirming there was a technical issue that had now been solved, and that the various sites were now “operating normally”.

The sites were down for around three-and-a-half hours. In that time, all of the BBC’s websites — as well as online services such as the iPlayer and its news sites — were inaccessible.

The BBC’s range of sites have been targeted previously – in July 2014 the iPlayer service was offline for an entire weekend after a fault developed in a database used by the on-demand television and radio service.

The attack on the BBC hit the main website and associated services, including the iPlayer catch-up service and iPlayer Radio app.

Social media reaction to the trouble was swift. Many urged the BBC to get the site back up quickly and lamented how long it was taking to fix the technical troubles.

The fault was traced to a database that sits behind the catch-up TV service.

During the outage, the BBC only said that the sites had been taken down by a “technical issue”, which it was working to address.

Asked if the sites had been hacked, a BBC spokeswoman would only add: “We aren’t discussing the causes or going into any further detail.”

Cyber security expert Professor Alan Woodward, from the University of Surrey, said an attack like this needs a “degree of coordination”. He added: “I would have thought this could have been so-called hacktivists.

“The bbc has a large and sophisticated structure themselves and I know they have systems in place to mitigate it so it might have been slightly more than the usual DDoS attack.

“I can’t see why a cyber criminal would do this, they do this for money, the only people who do this to make a point are hacktivists.

“You have these groups who are doing this to make a point.

He added: “Nation states often have the capability to do it.”