MetService website safe to visit

August 17, 2011

At around 8pm last night, Tuesday 16 August, MetService’s web support team identified an issue with its ad server. The ad server was immediately shut down to protect client browsers and prevent further problems. Prior to this we had received no reports of any issues.

We now know that the ad server was compromised by a malicious attack. A file containing JavaScript code was uploaded into our ad database, causing the browser of anyone viewing an ad on our website to be redirected (without the user noticing) to a website which downloads malware files. Our best estimates place this risk at around four hours in duration.

Over the past week, MetService’s website has experienced record numbers of visitors due to the severe weather being experienced across the country. The site has handled this record traffic well. The popularity of the site, and the fact that this weather has made news around the world, no doubt made it a target for this attack. We have traced the source of the attack to an overseas IP address, but this is sure to be merely the start of a long trail that may never lead back to the culprit.

Naturally, MetService’s focus is on ensuring the continuance of safe access to metservice.com for the public. The site is now, and has been since last night, safe to access. An ad server upgrade incorporating a fix is now being installed in order to resolve the issue. The ad server database is also in the process of being cleaned and rebuilt. Advertising revenue is vital to support MetService’s provision of online weather information to the public, so once all issues have been resolved ads will resume on the site.

We have responded to tweets on the issue starting from just before 10am this morning, and will continue to respond to users’ concerns as they arise. We have included more information below to help answer some common questions.

The MetService team regret any issues experienced by visitors to our site as a result of this attack. The site is safe to use, and is always your first and best port of call for the very latest in weather information.

Your questions answered

Question: Do you know what malware could have been downloaded?
Answer: We can’t know this – sites like this may try to download one or more of a number of nasties; however, your antivirus software should be able to deal with them if you have kept it updated.

Question: What is MetService’s advice to people who may have been affected?
Answer: We recommend that you update your antivirus software with the latest definitions, then scan your computer and follow the instructions if an infection is found.

Question: Can MetService guarantee this won’t happen again?
Answer: Our website is a vital source of information for the public, and we go to great lengths to be vigilant against all threats to it. Unfortunately, no-one can guarantee their website is 100% safe against such attacks – which is why as individuals it is equally important to protect ourselves with up-to-date antivirus software when we are using the internet.

For further information please contact:
Jacqui Bridges, Marketing and Communications Manager, 04 4700777 or 027 3700700  Email: jacqui.bridges@metservice.com

(C) Copyright Meteorological Service of New Zealand Ltd 2011

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