#MirrorUs: Alternative media outfits launch campaign to counter cyber-attacks
Independent and alternative media outfits under Altermidya Network today launched the #MirrorUs campaign, an initiative which calls on supporters to create a mirror copy of their websites that have been the subject of unrelenting cyber-attacks in the past months.
“The concept behind the #MirrorUs campaign is for supporters and advocates to create a mirror copy of recent posts and contents of the websites of the alternative media in their respective servers, to make the contents of these sites available even if the ongoing cyber-attacks shut down the main sites,” explained Computer Professionals Union (CPU) coordinator Mac Yanto. CPU, an Altermidya member organization, assists several alternative media outfits in securing their websites.
Since December, the websites of Bulatlat, Kodao Productions, and Pinoy Weekly were targeted for “Distributed Denial of Service” (DDoS) attacks after posting reports on issues critical to the current Duterte administration, including stories about the illegal arrest of political prisoners and the moves to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
DDoS is a malicious form of cyber-attack that aims to overload a targeted machine. Once the server is oversaturated, the website will become inaccessible. As a result, additional and legitimate readers of the website are literally be “denied” of access.
By January this year, DDoS attacks escalated, and included the sites of Altermidya, Manila Today, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), and even the websites of human rights group Karapatan, Arkibong Bayan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and lately, Ibon Foundation.
Qurium, the Sweden-based media foundation assisting Bulatlat, Altermidya, Karapatan and Pinoy Weekly, found out that there is a pattern: the same techniques and same botnets are being used against these websites. An independent review of Kodao Productions’ traffic logs also revealed the same attackers. Quirium noted that in the past decade, they have not seen such magnitude and scale of DDoS attacks being launched in one country.
Details of the attacks have been reported to the National Computer Emergency Response Team (NCERT) under the Department of Information and Communications Technology last February. The NCERT replied CIVICERT only on March 15 after protests at the DICT, but only to ask for a list of attacked websites (although these details have been sent to the agency earlier)
“Mirroring websites is one way to fight the DDoS attacks. Even if the attackers successfully shut down one site, its mirror sites can still make the contents of that site available. Mirror sites may serve as repository of the attacked sites. Amid the continuing cyber attacks against online alternative media platforms and advocacy groups, the #MirrorUs project will help multiply our online presence and partly mitigate the cyber attacks,” said Ronalyn Olea, managing editor of Bulatlat.com.
Site mirroring circumvents technological censorship by duplicating the contents of a website targeted by cyber-attacks in various servers located not just in the Philippines but throughout the world.
International media watchdog Reporters Without Borders has already began the website mirroring campaign for alternative news websites, Bulatlat and Kodao Productions, as part of their “Operation Collateral Freedom” international campaign.
“We call on advocates, supporters, and the public to support the #MirrorUs campaign. As more mirror sites are established, the nefarious forces behind the DDoS attacks will not succeed in shutting down and silencing the alternative media,” said Altermidya national coordinator Rhea Padilla.
“The #MirroUs campaign is both an act of defense and offense against cybercensorship. It is a big way to defiantly tell those who are attempting to implement cyber-martial law that the media will not be silenced, and that the alternative media will definitely fight back,” Padilla said.
The groups encouraged netizens to repost and promote contents of alternative media outfits through their social media accounts.
For people and organizations interested in joining the #MirrorUs campaign, kindly contact alternative media outfits through: firstname.lastname@example.org or send an FB or twitter message to @Altermidya.