WEBSITE VERA Files has been hit by a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) after a story critical of President Rodrigo Duterte went live, according to Ellen Tordesillas, president of the organisation represented by the site.
VERA (Spanish for “truth”) Files is a site which was founded in 2008 to publish investigative journalism pieces and report on Filipino social issues.
The site received some international acknowledgment in 2017, having been accredited by the not-for-profit International Fact Checking Network, run by the Poynter Institute, a US-based journalism school and organisation.
According to Tordesillas, VERA Files’s site was hit by a cyberattack, repeated the following morning, after it published a story concerning Duterte’s and his daughter’s non-disclosure of financial details held at the Bank of the Philippine Islands when the pair were mayor and vice-mayor of Davao City.
The site’s administrator reported an outage on January 22 and described it as being caused by a DDoS, which was resolved around midnight. The following morning saw a repeat attack.
A distributed denial of service attack takes place when multiple computers (thus, “distributed”) typically request responses from a server (in this case a web server) in a short period of time, overwhelming the host and in effect bringing the service “down” for genuine users (thus, “denial of service”).
The site is currently protected by CloudFlare DDoS protection mechanisms which are (at least to this author’s attempts) limiting access to the site by producing multiple Error 1015 messages on page requests; an over-reactive traffic-throttling measure, effectively limiting access to the site, proving that the cure is often worse than the complaint.
The article in question has since been replicated and posted on Facebook. Whether pro-Duterte agents were behind the DDoS attack or not is effectively impossible to ascertain, and therefore motives remain unclear.
But the most any vindictive activities of this sort can hope to achieve is an inconvenience to readers – the very design of the Internet was built on the multiple premises, key among which is the replication and dissemination of information as effectively as possible.
Public dissent may be hindered online, therefore, but it cannot ever be entirely extinguished.