Was Burmese junta behind cyber attack on Irrawaddy website?
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Was Burmese junta behind cyber attack on Irrawaddy website?

Exiled Burmese news group The Irrawaddy has reported that its website was the victim of a cyber attack last week which saw two fake articles published.

From The Irrawaddy:

The hacker or hackers, whose identify is so far unknown, hijacked the…website on Friday night and posted two false stories, both controversial articles, one intended to sow a misunderstanding between The Irrawaddy and pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, and another falsely proclaiming that well-known Burmese pop singer May Sweet had died.

Although little is known of the origin of the attack or attackers, the site’s editor, Aung Zaw, suspects that the Burmese pro-military junta group were behind the hack.

“The intension of the attack is to damage the credibility of The Irrawaddy,” he said.

Over the past year, The Irrawaddy has exposed many illegal activities of the Burmese junta, including the fixing of November’s general election, high-level corruption, nepotism, and the release of exclusive photos of secret military missions from Burma to North Korea.

“This is most likely why the junta has assigned technicians to attack our website,” Aung Zaw said.

As one of the leading independent Burmese news groups, the attack will concern The Irrawaddy, whose reputation took a hit when singer Sweet criticised the news group via Facebook after learning of the article about her, still unaware of the circumstances behind it.

As The Irrawaddy article points out, this is not the first time that the group’s site has suffered an attack – having suffered DDos attacks in 2008 and 2010 – nor is the website the sole target of cyber attackers.

Many exile Burmese websites are hacked and defaced by hackers, said an IT expert, though this latest incident indicates that the people hired to do the job are getting more sophisticated in their approach.

“Rather than merely attacking the technical infrastructure of the site, as they have in the past with DDoS [Distributed Denial of Service] attacks, or infecting the servers that host the site with a virus, they may be targeting something more valuable—the news agency’s reputation,” he said.

It seems likely that The Irrawaddy and other exiled organisations which publish material critical of the Burmese regime – Asian Correspondent included – need to increase their defences against new, more dangerous threats in 2011.