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Google AND Yahoo! hijacked in Ireland after domain namespace grab

Human error or something more sinister?

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Google and Yahoo!'s Irish domains were briefly hijacked on Tuesday afternoon, the IE Domain Registry (IEDR) has confirmed.

Fraud officers from the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation are said to be investigating how malefactors were able to take the websites offline for several hours after mischievously changing both Yahoo.ie and Google.ie's name servers. Both domain names are managed by San Francisco-based registrar MarkMonitor.

In a statement issued to The Register last night, Google failed to mention it had been hijacked. Instead it simply told us:

We are aware that some users are having difficulties accessing www.google.ie and we are working to fix the problem. We apologise to those users experiencing problems and appreciate their patience.

It's understood that the IEDR's chief David Curtin emailed all of the outfit's registrars about the hijack, according to this blog post detailing the sorry affair. Curtin apparently said:

There was an unauthorised access to one registrar’s account [MarkMonitor] which resulted in the change to the DNS nameserver records for the two .ie domains. The IEDR worked with the registrar to ensure that the nameserver records were reset and corrected promptly.

But it remains unclear how such a major and deeply embarrassing breach could have occurred.

Some security experts had suggested that MarkMonitor's console may have been "socially engineered" with a hacker possibly pretending to represent the registrar thereby fooling the IEDR into providing login details to gain access to, and subsequently modify, Google and Yahoo!'s DNS nameservers.

At present, IEDR is displaying a message on its site that reads:

Some of IEDR’s systems are currently unavailable. We apologise for the inconvenience to our customers.

As you may be aware, there was a security incident yesterday [9 October], involving two high profile .ie domains that has warranted further investigation and some precautionary actions on the part of the IEDR.

There was an unauthorised access to a Registrar’s account which resulted in the change to the DNS nameserver records for the two .ie domains. The IEDR worked with the Registrar to ensure that the nameserver records were reset and corrected promptly. Simultaneously, the IEDR commenced an investigation and analysis, with the assistance of external security experts.

It said that security wonks had advised that the IEDR temporarily disrupted its service by closing its external web-based systems to allow for further analysis to take place.

The not-for-profit org added that its Whois service and API remained fully operational and claimed that over two-thirds of .ie domains held by registrars were unaffected by the forced interruption to its service while the probe into the problems continues. It added: "Public access to .ie websites or email is also unaffected."

Sophos security expert Graham Cluley noted on his blog on Tuesday evening that IEDR incorrectly pointed Google and Yahoo! users to nameservers called farahatz.net, which appeared to be based in Indonesia. ®

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