It would be the old-media equivalent of every delivery truck in a newspaper’s fleet breaking down at the same time.
On Sunday and Monday, the popular Web sites run by Gawker Media went off the grid after an apparent attack by hackers.
As such, devoted readers of the company’s flagship site, Gawker.com, which chronicles Manhattan-centric media machinations, may have missed such tidbits of gossip as Ryan O’Neal accidentally hitting on his daughter Tatum at Farrah Fawcett’s funeral and the Twitter habits of Sarah Palin’s hairdresser.
“We’re having it investigated right now,” Thomas Plunkett, the chief technology officer at Gawker Media, said Tuesday. Gawker’s sites were working Tuesday, but as Mr. Plunkett was speaking he said the company’s servers remained under a so-called denial-of-service attack.
The attack was aimed at Consumerist.com, Mr. Plunkett said, but the rest of the Gawker universe was collateral damage. Gawker sold Consumerist to Consumers Union, the nonprofit group that publishes Consumer Reports magazine, late last year, but Gawker still hosts the site.
In a memo to the company’s staff Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Plunkett wrote, “we have implemented several changes including isolating consumerist.com traffic, and adding several filters to deal with this specific type of attack. I expect everything will remain normal moving forward.”
But here, there seemed to be some disagreement. A spokesman for Consumers Union suggested it was unclear that Consumerist was indeed the target.
“All we know as of now is the entire Gawker network had a service interruption,” said Ken N. Weine, the spokesman for Consumers Union. “The only thing that’s clear is Consumerist has passionate readers who, like us, are happy the site is back up, fighting for consumers.”
Gawker’s sites went down at 10:20 a.m. Sunday, and were back online by 6 p.m. Sunday, only to go down again around 7:30 Monday morning. The sites were troubled most of Monday, before resuming normal operations about 9 p.m., Mr. Plunkett said. Gawker’s other sites include Jezebel, Deadspin and Gizmodo.
On Monday, the blogs’ writers were in the difficult position of explaining to readers why the sites were down. In a post Monday afternoon, a Gawker blogger wrote, “it always seems pretty pointless to put up a post on a website to say that that site’s down. But to state the obvious: all Gawker media sites are having really bad server problems today. It’s not just you.”
Anna Holmes, the editor of Jezebel, a site aimed at women and focused on matters of sex and popular culture, said that she told writers, who typically work from home, to ease up on Monday.
“In a perverse way, I think it gave writers a much-needed break. There wasn’t a lot of hair-pulling going on,” she said.
Mr. Plunkett’s investigators, and the staff at Datagram, a company in New York that provides space for the Gawker servers, will probably never know who led the attack, and whether Gawker was a specific target.
“I assume it was done on purpose,” Ms. Holmes said. “As to why, we can only guess.”