Thu 30 Sep 2010
Filed under: Editorial,Opinion,Other
Websites operated by The Irrawaddy and other such independent but critical media as Mizzima and the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) were shut down this week in a high volume attack which overloaded their capacity to provide service—a so-called Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) assault.Targeted DDoS attacks against Internet communities working to promote press freedom and access to unbiased information are a technically sophisticated but nevertheless crude effort to silence the voices of freedom and truth. The Irrawaddy believes that this is a politically motivated and well-organized cyber crime.
The attacks coincided with the anniversary of the 2007 “Saffron Revolution.” A similar attack was launched against exile media in September 2008, on the uprising’s first anniversary. Websites were crippled for several days.
The Irrawaddy’s website host in the US reported that the volume of the DDoS attack on The Irrawaddy was 4 gigabytes, 3 gigabytes larger than in September 2008.
The massive cyber attacks that shut down The Irrawaddy and Mizzima came largely from Chinese internet provider addresses, while the attacks on the DVB website, measuring about 120 megabytes per second, came from Russia, Georgia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Vietnam.
“Although it’s unclear who launched these debilitating attacks, they are consistent with the Burmese government’s past attempts to censor the Internet and block critical foreign news,” said Shawn Crispin, senior Southeast Asia representative of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. “We condemn these efforts to silence the few news outlets covering events in Burma.”
The Irrawaddy also believes that the attackers are testing the technological strength of the Burmese exile media ahead of the Nov. 7 election, and suspects that they may systemically launch further cyber assaults at that time.
Burma’s Internet community plans to monitor the election in the absence of independent foreign observers, who are banned. Visa restrictions are also being applied against foreign tourists wishing to visit Burma in the period before and during the election.
Equipped with cell phones and digital cameras, and with access to the Internet, determined young Burmese are enthusiastically communicating with each other and the outside world in their own campaign to expose the truth.
The regime is unlikely to stand aside and allow this to happen—after all,
in 2007, it pulled the plug on Internet services in a bid to prevent the outside world knowing the full extent of the brutal suppression of the September demonstrations.
The DDoS attacks represent a new instrument of suppression of the truth, and provide yet another cruel example of the military government’s hostility toward any media attempt to expose the reality of events in Burma.