Chilean investigative news organization’s website down after cyber attack for second time this year

By Alejandro Martínez

The website of the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIPER) in Chile was hacked on Thursday, Feb. 27, for the second time this year.

The cyber-attack forced CIPER to take the site off the Internet, which stayed offline for the whole3 weekend while the team sought to identify the security vulnerability that was exploited and increase safety measures. The website had been restored by Monday afternoon.

On the afternoon of Feb. 27, the attackers substituted the site's homepage with a message alluding to the lawsuit between Chile and Peru regarding the maritime border between the two countries, which was resolved at the end of last January in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, said Francisca Skoknic, subdirector at CIPER, in an interview with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

On Jan. 21, the site went offline for the first time after a similar attack that shut down the website for four days and also included a message alluding to the same international dispute.

However, the message seemed strange, said Skoknic, given that CIPER – being an investigative organization that seldom deals with daily news – has not covered that lawsuit between the two countries on its site.

“Although the messages refer to a conflict with another country, we actually don’t know what the motivations behind an attack of this kind may be. It’s very aggressive. There’s always the possibility that someone is trying to silence us,” said Skoknic.

CIPER is an independent media organization that was created in 2007. It operates as a nonprofit foundation and focuses on producing investigative reports, mainly about Chile's political life.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.