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Russia: Attempted Hijacking of Regional News Website

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Russia, Breaking News, Citizen Media, Freedom of Speech, Media & Journalism, Technology, RuNet Echo

When internet domains are hijacked [1], the theft is usually facilitated by hackers. A stolen email password, a virus, or compromised server can wreak havoc on the ability of owners to maintain control of a website. However, it now appears that technological savvy is unnecessary for such a hostile takeover. Yesterday Aksana Panova, editor-in-chief of Yekaterinburg news website URA.ru, reported on her Facebook [2] [ru] that someone filed paperwork with Russian domain registrar RU-CENTER [3] [ru], requesting that the domain www.ura.ru [4] [ru] be reissued to unknown third-parties. Panova only found out about this request when RU-CENTER informed her that website passwords have been changed.

The anonymous perpetrators had copies of all the relevant documents, including a copy of Panova's passport. Panova believes that the documents were acquired during the recent police raid [5] [GV] of URA.ru's offices, her passport copied by the police during interrogation. For the past few months URA.ru and Panova have been under investigation by local police, in what many see as payback for critical coverage orchestrated by the regional government. In this light, domain theft appears to be an attempt to exert further pressure on the beleaguered publication.