ORGANISERS of the Monmouthshire Business Awards claim their website was hacked by Chinese cyber criminals and taken offline for three days last week.

The website is now back up, but the deadline for the entries to the 2014 MBA Awards has been extended by one week to Friday, August 8.

The hackers, believed to hail from China, hacked into the website’s host operating system and bypassed the site’s security measures by cracking a series of access codes.

The awards organisers believe their site was picked at random and that the hackers wanted to use it as a platform to shift illegal goods or products.

The breach was discovered by the website’s developer, who locked it down to prevent further unlawful access.

It was offline between Monday and Thursday last week while the breach was investigated. A spokesman for MBA said the police had been notified.

The site does not contain any sensitive data, nor hold information of any kind about people or businesses. No other damage was caused, but A series of new security measures have since been added to safeguard the site against future attack.

Awards founder Janet Harris said: “We understand our site has become the latest victim of so-called Chinese cyber-gangs. Like most websites that are hacked, ours was apparently selected at random.

“The episode caused us all a bit of concern, but I’m pleased to say that no harm has been done and additional measures are now in place.”

Visit to enter the awards.