The Post and Courier

The Post and Courier’s website experienced an attack of unknown origin Friday morning, causing it to stop working for a period of time.

The attack on hit between 8:56 and 10:17 a.m., according to an emailed statement from Newscycle Solutions, the company that hosts the site as well as the newspaper’s online publishing system.

The attack took place less than two days after nine people were killed in the shootings at Emanuel AME Church. Coverage of the killings has driven heavy traffic volume to the website.

It is not considered a hack, which involves stealing information. Newscycle said the site was hit by a “distributed denial of service” attack, meaning an offsite server was purposely overloaded with corrupted information to the point that it was unable to function. Distributed means the attack originated from many computers working together. Once a server becomes too busy trying to respond to fake requests, it is no longer able to respond to legitimate requests.

“I was told that it was a very, very large attack,” said Sam Monk, information systems director for the shared services newspaper division of Evening Post Industries, The Post and Courier’s parent company. Monk said the site began functioning again around 11 a.m.

He said he is certain the newspaper was the target of the attack.

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“It was initially difficult to tell that it was a denial of service attack,” he said. “Initially, it looked like it was just a resource issue,” meaning the site wasn’t able to support the volume of inbound traffic.

“After mitigation step one and two didn’t work ... it was pretty much process of elimination” to figure out it was an attack, Monk said.

The problem grew worse “despite the fact that traffic on the site was dropping,” he said.

Reach Allison Prang at 937-5705 or on Twitter @AllisonPrang.