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MK Loses Web Site In Mystery Attack

Unidentified hackers have destroyed the web site of Moskovsky Komsomolets in a mysterious attack, said editors for the popular national tabloid.

A virus coming from a server based in South Korea “erased” the contents of the web site in 10 minutes, MK web editor Albert Shchegrov said by telephone Friday.

“The virus penetrated the site’s structure, discovered gaps in it, and made the program that protects the site destroy it,” Shchegrov said.

He said editors determined that hackers had caused the site to go down on Thursday, four days after the attack.

The site came under attack during the last weekend in November, and its archive of articles, photos and videos was destroyed, MK editor-in-chief Pavel Gusev told The Moscow Times. Online readers were only able to access daily news on the web site last week.

The site will be completely back online Monday, except for photo and video materials that were not saved elsewhere and have been lost forever, Gusev said.

MK had planned to open a new web site last week, and the launch has now been delayed for a month, Gusev said.

Gusev said he had an idea about who was behind the attack but didn’t want to voice it yet. MK lawyers will file complaints about the attack with several law enforcement agencies, he said.

Meanwhile, a former MK editor suggested Friday that the site’s problems were not linked to a hacker attack but a mistake by its administrators.

“Unprofessional” workers “killed” the newspaper’s archive, Alexei Krasnov, a manager of the newspaper’s Internet projects from October 2008 to July, said in a comment posted on the Roem.ru forum.

Krasnov, reached on his cell phone, refused to elaborate on his post.  

Gusev denied the accusation. “I don’t think Krasnov’s opinion is right,” Gusev said. “He was fired, so he may be holding it against the newspaper.”

Moskovsky Komsomolets is one of the few major dailies relatively free of outside interference, with most of its stock owned by Gusev, who has been the editor since 1983 and oversaw its privatization in the early 1990s.

Gusev enjoys warm relations with Moscow City Hall, and the paper, which has turned increasingly tabloid-like in recent years, refrains from criticizing Mayor Yury Luzhkov’s policies.

The Moskovsky Komsomolets publishing house will celebrate its 90th anniversary this week.

Hackers have attacked other Russian media in the past. In May 2007, the web sites of the Kommersant daily and Ekho Moskvy radio went offline for a couple days after unidentified hackers targeted them in so-called Distributed Denial of Service, or DDoS, attacks, where a network of computers that have been covertly infected to run malicious software bombards a web site with requests from thousands of computers across the globe, thus making it inaccessible to legitimate web traffic.

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