Professor Danilo Arao (second from left) speaks during a press briefing in Manila on Feb. 7 to announce digital attacks are being directed at alternative media sites. (Photo by Jire Carreon)
Alternative media sites in the Philippines have come under cyber attack in recent weeks after carrying stories critical of the government, according to some of their editors.
Danilo Arao, editor of bulatlat.com, said the "assaults" started after stories critical of the move to lower the age of criminal responsibility were posted on the news site.
Arao, who also teaches journalism at the University of the Philippines, the attacks were "well-funded, sophisticated and multi-pronged."
In a news briefing in Quezon City on Feb. 7, Arao said the attacks against bulatlat.com started in December and peaked last month.
The focus of the online assaults has since shifted to another alternative news service, Kodao Productions, he added.
Editors at another outfit, Altermidya Network, said their information technology experts were still trying to identify spam and malware sent to their site.
The Swedish Qurium Media Foundation, which is helping the sites to contain the attacks, said a "distributed denial of service [DDoS]" attack on bulatlat.com involved at least three million "requests per second," which represents the website’s average traffic over six months.
Qurium is a non-profit foundation that helps activist groups under attack by repressive governments and entities around the world.
A DDoS attack swamps a website’s capacity to serve its audience. At its worst, administrators are not able to access the site.
Tamer attacks can substantially slow down a site, with the possibility of audience giving up trying to access stories.
"We received 40,000 times the normal traffic on our site," said Len Olea, managing editor of bulatlat.com. She said there were as many as 40 attacks in a week.
"It takes a lot of money to do these attacks and the initial results of an investigation showed this," said Olea.
On Jan. 30, the day after the killing of a peace activist in the northern Philippines, "hits" on bulatlat.com "doubled from already heightened levels."
Editor Arao, however, said Qurium managed to staunch the attacks and migrated the site to safer servers.
He said the attacks were the work of "a large team with deep pockets."
"They initially kept their requests at a low ratio to avoid flood detection," he said. But the "slow intermittent flood" eventually became a deluge.