“Has it been hacked? Or something?” – p2pnet asked yesterday.
Both sites went offline at more or less at the same moment, as we noted, but that wasn’t all. YouTube was also hit, as was LiveJournal.
And it looks as though a carefully targetted political attack on one blogger named Cyxymu was responsible for what turned out to be a sequence of DoS attacks.
It was a hit on just one person. But four major sites affecting hundreds of millions of people around the world shuddered almost to a halt.
The implications are staggering.
‘The war and the pain’
Cyxymu is a Georgian activist and the hits were aimed at sites he had accounts on, explains CNet News.
“It was a simultaneous attack across a number of properties targeting him to keep his voice from being heard,” Facebook’s Max Kelly says in the story.
“We’re actively investigating the source of the attacks and we hope to be able to find out the individuals involved in the back end and to take action against them if we can.”
And, “Today marks 14 years since the day when I stepped on the earth of my homeland for the last time,” it has Cyxymu saying LiveJournal in 1993. “On September 27, 1993, I left my hometown and have not been back since. That was the last day when Sukhumi existed. On that day, as the Abkhaz say, ‘they shot the `i’ off Sukhumi,’ and along with it they killed the city’s soul.”
The LiveJournal was Cyxymu’s chosen online platform and neither his Sukhumi page, nor http://cyxymu.livejournal.com were working at 4:42 am Pacific.
Wrote Rebecca MacKinnon (right), an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong on Circle ID in February »»»
Even the most cold-hearted realists would agree that the failure of Communist censorship played a role in the collapse of the Iron Curtain: Voice of America, the fax machine, rock`n roll, and the lure of Western capitalism helped to win over the people of the Soviet Bloc.
Today, similar hopes are often vested in the Internet, with high expectations that the wealth of online information might trigger the same kind of censorship failure in contemporary authoritarian states that we saw in Eastern Europeâand with the same results.
But in Russia, the Kremlin is, “now moving full-speed into the virtual world,” she said, continuing »»»
The authorities’ strategy is not new: establish tight control over the leading publishing platforms and fill them with propaganda and spin to shape online public opinion.
The fate of LiveJournalâthe most influential blogging platform in Russia, which is often used to express dissent and protest against the governmentâis one unfortunate example. In less than three years, this popular online resource has been transformed from a respectable American start-up to a shady Moscow-based enterprise, co-owned by the Kremlin’s favorite oligarchs.
Government propaganda abounds, too, generated by new media operators like Konstantin Rykov, a 29-year-old Duma deputy and the founder of New Media Stars, the Kremlin’s favorite Internet firm.
Whenever manipulation efforts fail, cyber-attacks offer yet another powerful tool to crack down on dissent without triggering public accusations of formal censorship. This is what happened to a Georgian (known by the screen name cyxymu) who used his blog on LiveJournal to criticize how both governments handled last summer’s war. A series of cyber-attacks followed, and was so devastating that the entire serviceâwith its millions of other blogsâcrashed, forcing LiveJournal administrators to delete his account temporarily.
As contemporary authoritarian regimes learn how to manage and engineer information flows, we must understand that promoting and protecting free speech in places like China and Russia is not a simple matter of “tearing down the wall.”
“Given these governments’ complex strategies for regulating what their citizens do online — ranging from establishing effective control of private media and telecoms businesses to allowing people to blow off steam without going too far — we should be more realistic about the true extent of the Internet’s transformational potential,” MacKinnon adds.
The anonymous computer hacker(s) who halted Twitter, Facebook, Google and LiveJournal, “struck at the heart of what we now do on the Internet every day,” says the Toronto Star, quoting independent technology analyst Carmi Levy as stating:
“It highlights just how dependent we have become on these services in a very short amount of time. If it had happened three years ago, none of us would have paid much notice.
“But now it’s a very big deal.
“I would call this a watershed event in the evolution of social media.”
p2pnet – Is Twitter offline?, August 6, 2009
p2pnet – No Tweets on Twitter, no face on Facebook, August 6, 2009
CNet News – Twitter, Facebook attack targeted one user, August 6, 2009
Global Voices – The War in Abkhazia – `Cyxymu’ Remembers, October 20, 2007
Circle ID – Internet Control Without “Firewalls”, February 26, 2009
Toronto Star – , August 7, 2009
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