Popular independent news portal Malaysiakini.com went off-line today in the run-up to crucial state elections in Sarawak on Saturday, attributing the outage to a sophisticated cyber-attack culminating in a Denial of Service (DOS) message for thousands of users.
A statement posted this evening on its Facebook page said the attack begun at 11am and shut down within hours the website's main servers hosted at two separate data centres in Kuala Lumpur.
"The Malaysiakini technical team has determined it to be a denial-of-service attack, where an attacker uses computers in different parts of the world to swarm Malaysiakini servers to the point that they are unable to cope with the massive traffic," said the statement.
It added that the editorial team had posted all of today's reports on its Facebook page and all articles, including those on the upcoming Sarawak election, 'would soon be available on Wordpress, Blogspot and other publishing platforms'.
'Too much of a coincidence'
Confirming details of the attack, Malaysiakini editor-in-chief Steven Gan told Yahoo! Malaysia the portal's tech team was working feverishly to bring the site back up but was unwilling to say when this could be accomplished.
"We are also working to bring up a new set of servers and we will keep our readers informed of developments via Facebook and Twitter," he said.
Asked to comment on similar cyber-attacks which began earlier this week against anti-Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud website 'Sarawak Report', Gan said the events were 'too much of a coincidence'.
"We would not want to jump to any conclusions but it is just too much of a coincidence that these attacks come just three days before polling in Sarawak.
"We'll let our readers draw their own conclusions," he said.
Since its launch in 1999, Malaysiakini has been considered to the leading non-government owned news media in Malaysia attracting over 15,000 unique visitors daily in 2010 making it the number one online news portal in the country.
The feisty website has been sued by Taib following revelations in foreign news reports that the latter allegedly received millions in kickbacks from timber deals.
The two-year-old 'Sarawak Report' meanwhile, is run by the sister-in-law of former British prime minister Gordon Brown - Clare Rewcastle Brown - and has exposed Taib's personal property empire stretching from Australia to Europe and North America.
The website has alleged that the chief minister - Malaysia's longest-serving - had amassed his wealth illegally through corruption and the systematic exploitation of Sarawak's abundant natural resources.