Embargo Watch

Keeping an eye on how scientific information embargoes affect news coverage

EurekAlert! back online, weeks after hacking incident

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EurekAlert_StackedLogo_Wht-RedBoxA number of science journalists may be breathing a big sigh of relief this afternoon, if they check their inboxes.

Nineteen days after going dark because it was hacked, the embargoed section of the EurekAlert! press release service is back online.

The site was taken offline late on the night of September 13 because of an “aggressive attack on September 9” in which usernames and passwords were compromised. Eventually, two embargoed press releases went out prematurely.

Today, Ginger Pinholster, chief communications officer and director, office of public programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which runs EurekAlert!, and Brian Lin, director of the services, told all EurekAlert! registrants that the embargoed sections “are now operational, following an extensive restoration effort.”

Pinholster and Lin wrote that registrants would need to reset their passwords, that they would be “offering extended business hours to provide assistance today and in the upcoming week,” and that new embargoed releases would be added as soon as they are processed, beginning tomorrow, October 3.

I asked Lin what the AAAS had learned about perpetrator:

We have not identified the perpetrator and remain uncertain of his/her motivation. The only information we were able to glean about this individual is from the Tweets he sent and the conversation he had with reporter Philipp Hummel, who brought the issue to our attention.

(Here’s a Q&A with Hummel, giving some details, from The Scientist.)

I also asked Lin about the efforts to reinstate the service:

The EurekAlert! web and editorial teams, as well as the AAAS IT team have been working around the clock since we became aware of the incident to perform security upgrades, migrate the site to a new server environment, extensive security and user-function testing, and working with our clients to provide interim services. This meant working many late nights and throughout the past three weekends, completing work that normally would take a least double the amount of time. But we are confident that EurekAlert! will be safer, faster, and more secure after the re-launch. We will also continuously monitor and improve our site, as we have always done in the past, to better serve our users.

The hacking incident sparked some news coverage, and prompted me to muse about whether it would give us a chance to see — with some caveats — what an embargo-free world would look like. That, in turn, led to a robust discussion of embargoes among reporters and press officers. Have a look.

Written by Ivan Oransky

October 2, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Posted in eurekalert policy

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