By SAW YAN NAING
The online news service of The Irrawaddy remained paralyzed by a cyber attack on Friday, although technicians expressed optimism that it would be back in operation by Monday.
Three other Burmese exile news operations that also fell victim to the attack restored their services on Friday, leading to hope that The Irrawaddy Web site would also soon be again accessible.
The attack knocked out The Irrawaddy service on Tuesday and also struck the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma and the New Era Journal, based in Bangkok. All were intermittently put out of action.
The three opposition news services, operated by Burmese exiles, were hit by a “distributed denial-of-service”, or DDoS.
A DDoS attack creates a “traffic jam” at the entry to a Web site as masses of fake, robot “visitors” try to access it.
INET, the second largest host server in Thailand, confirmed that The Irrawaddy Web site, www.irrawaddy.org, had been disabled by a DDoS attack since September 17, the day before the 20th anniversary of the mass anti-government demonstrations in Rangoon on September 18.
The CAT Telecom Public Co. Ltd and some ISPs blocked The Irrawaddy Web site as a “danger zone.”
One consultant, who requested anonymity, said: “Usually, it only impacts the targeted Web site, but it is possible that Internet infrastructure will be affected on a wider scale when many Web sites are under attack at the same time on the same national network.”
The Irrawaddy’s “mirror site,” www.irrawaddymedia.com, was also disabled by DDoS.
Rangoon visitors to The Irrawaddy Web site reported on Friday that they could access it by setting new proxy servers.
A DDoS attack is orchestrated by an aggressor hiring a hacker who claims the power to control thousands of PCs around the world with the ability of using them to attack a Web site. Fees for the services of the hacker vary according to the size and duration of the attack, but usually start at around US $500, according to one technician.
Win Thu, The Irrawaddy’s office manager, who also oversees its technical team, said the attack that struck the company’s Web site appeared to have been targeted by such a hacker. The nature of DDoS made it likely that the attack would be limited in duration, he said.
Aye Chan Naing, DVB’s chief editor, said his organization received several phone calls and anonymous e-mails two months ago, claiming cyber attackers were Burmese technicians who had trained in Russia.
“The Burmese authorities want to block the flow of information to the outside world,” he said. “But I don’t think they can do it for a long time.”
Exiled media groups, bloggers, reporters inside Burma and citizen journalists played major roles in the reporting on the Buddhist monk-led uprising in September 2007, highlighting the brutal suppression of the monks and their supporters in the streets of Rangoon.
Recently, the regime has tightened its watch over Internet cafes in Rangoon. In some Internet cafes, users have to show their ID, while informers observe students playing video games. Buddhist monks complain that they are treated like criminals if they are seen using the Internet.