By MIN LWIN
The online version of The Irrawaddy and other Web sites run by Burmese exiles are back in operation after being hit last Tuesday by “distributed denial-of-service,” or DDoS, attacks that jammed the sites with fake traffic.
Attacks on the Irrawaddy Web site stopped on Friday evening, according to office manager Win Thu, who supervised efforts to restore service. A mirror site, www.irrawaddymedia.com, has been available since Saturday evening, and the main site, www.irrawaddy.org, went back online on Monday. He added that additional mirror sites would be created as a measure to deal with any future attacks.
“I am not sure if another attack will hit our site or not,” he said. “If the Burmese military government has well-trained computer technicians, the exiled media may be targeted again, because it doesn’t cost very much to carry out such attacks.”
At least two other exiled media Web sites were affected by last week’s attacks. The Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma and Khit Pyaing (The New Era Journal), based in Bangkok, have both been restored to full service.
This is the second time that The Irrawaddy’s Web site has been hit by a cyber attack since it was established in 2000.
The first time occurred almost exactly one year ago, when a Trojan virus infected the site at the height of monk-led protests against military rule in Burma in September 2007. The Irrawaddy Web site reported extensively on the demonstrations and posted numerous images and videos provided by so-called “citizen journalists” inside the country.
Like last year’s attack, the latest attempt to shut down exiled media Web sites was accompanied by a slowdown of Internet service inside Burma.
According to Internet café owners and users in Rangoon, Internet speeds have slowed down considerably since last week, making it impossible to upload large files such as photos or videos. There were also reports of connections stopping and restarting every ten minutes or so on Friday and Saturday.
Sources in Rangoon have also reported increased surveillance of Internet cafes. The owner of one Internet café in downtown Rangoon said that local authorities and police intelligence officers had issued orders to provide Internet users’ ID information.
“The authorities ordered us to register user ID numbers, addresses and phone numbers,” he said.
Internet cafes are also required to send each user’s Web history to the state-run Internet service provider (ISP) Myanmar Info-tech every two weeks. They are also instructed to automatically capture screenshots showing users’ online activities every five minutes.
Despite the tightening of restrictions on access to the Internet, the Burmese regime has recently moved to expand Internet service in the country.
Hanthawaddy National Gateway, Burma’s newest ISP, was launched in July and is expected to become the largest in the country, according to a senior member of the Myanmar Computer Professionals Association.
The new ISP will provide access to subscribers in every state and division except Rangoon Division, but at present is only available to military officials, he added.
Hanthawaddy National Gateway received technical assistance from Alcatel Shanghai Bell Company, which is represented in Burma by Tay Za, one of the country’s wealthiest businessmen and a close associate of senior leaders of the ruling junta.
The source said that Hanthawaddy National Gateway is to be linked to the Yadanabon teleport in Mandalay and also to a regional ISP in Hong Kong.
Burma currently has three ISPs—the state-run Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), which operates Myanmar Info-tech; the semi-government-owned Myanmar Teleport (formerly Bagan Net); and Hanthawaddy National Gateway.