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Study Finds DDoS Attacks Threaten Human Rights 118

CWmike writes "A new study warned this week that DDoS attacks launched against sites run by human rights and dissident media groups threaten to knock free speech off the Web. The study, conducted by Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, showed that such attacks frequently knocked such sites offline. Of the sites surveyed by the center, 62% were victimized by DDoS attacks in the last 12 months, and 61% experienced unexplained downtime."
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Study Finds DDoS Attacks Threaten Human Rights

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  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @07:31PM (#34647380)

    There was no study when Georgia (the country, not the US state) was DDoSed during a "dispute" with another country that's gonna remain unnamed for now. Well, maybe because you just don't piss on countries with almost as many nukes as the US.

    There was no study when the Iranian government was DDoSed during the 2009 elections, pretty much kicking the Iran off the web. But I guess that's ok, they're "evil" after all, right?

    There was no study when wikileaks was under a DDoS just a month ago, probably because they are now evil too (I watch too much Fox, I admit it).

    But suddenly, when companies come under a DDoS that terminated business and froze funds of an organization that fights FOR more transparency and freedom of information, a DDoS becomes an attack on the freedom of speech.

    Doubleplusgood timing!

  • by Senes ( 928228 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @07:32PM (#34647384)
    As we've learned with the recent round of attacks in the news, the effects are brief and leave no long-term impact on the targets.

    The threat to free speech isn't DDoS, it's censorship.
  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @07:35PM (#34647420) Journal

    DDOS is a form of free speech, just like a lunch counter sit-in. Yes, they take some sites off line for a bit, but they're always back. As long as you're not using an illegally obtained bot-net, you are merely exercising your normal rights as a user of the internet. You're just requesting content, just like the rest of your 10,000 friends.

    Sure, the people doing a DDOS could get their own website to get their message out. But who would view it? A DDOS sends a message that can't be ignored.

  • No it isn't (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @07:50PM (#34647554)

    Not unless stopping someone from speaking is free speech. If you are standing at a podium, speaking your mind, and I rush you and duct tape your mouth shut is that free speech? I think you'd have to agree no. Even though it can be argued to express an idea (that being that I don't like what you are saying) the effect is to silence you, not to counter your voice with my own.

    Shutting down someone for saying something you don't like isn't free speech.

  • by VGR ( 467274 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @07:54PM (#34647592)

    Um, what human rights groups are being assaulted by DDoS attacks? The article mentions only a few groups, and the closest things to human rights groups in that list are a Vietnamese environmental protest group and a Russian independent newspaper. And honestly, I can think of a dozen things off the top of my head that could get a group DDoS'd when dealing with Russia.

    So I went and skimmed the actual report [] discussed by the article. (No, I didn't read all 66 pages of it.) It doesn't seem to reference any groups other than those mentioned in the article.

    I have no doubt that DDoS attacks can be a threat to human rights sites, but so far I don't see any.

    And I am having a hard time avoiding the conclusion that the article is deliberately conflating the pro-WikiLeaks attacks with attacks on "human rights."

  • by Caerdwyn ( 829058 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @07:56PM (#34647604) Journal

    Crippling a company's ability to do business online is identical to welding their front door shut so nobody can get in. You can picket a company but you're not allowed to physically prevent people from getting in. It's the online equivalent of book-burning, except you're burning the books and the bookstore. There is no "right" to do that, online or otherwise.

    It's not free speech. It's a crime. DDoS "hacktivists" are denying the rights of others to visit that website, and are no different at all from the thugs operating China's Great Firewall or the religious freakjobs dictating Australia's and Iran's Internet content. A zealot is a zealot, and they all need to be treated as the threat to freedom and human rights they are, regardless of their leanings. Their methods are the same: "I will decide for everybody else what they are forbidden to see, and use any means necessary to impose my will on others".

  • by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @07:58PM (#34647626)

    So, a study of groups which are all pretty much the opposite of banking and financial institutions must clearly be secretly linked to an attempt to discredit people attacking the banks? I might need to get more tin foil, but when Russia 'attacked' Georgia or Wikileaks was under attack, the concept of DDoSing hadn't been in the news so much. Those were basically treated as curiosities on the sidelines of more major news coverage. After all, what's a little bandwidth choking when tanks and bombs are also involved?

    The widespread, highly-publicised attacks against major corporations probably brought more attention on the subject, which previously had been something that was smaller scale and used either for tactical or strategic reasons, either by governments or crime rings, or maybe from time-to-time for personal revenge. Maybe its just the type of news sources I read, but there have been many, many stories about the Anonymous attacks and it seems to be getting coverage across the board.

    Given the heightened awareness, is it any wonder that social scientists might start to take a broader look at it? Besides, this is still a pretty far cry from "attacking Visa is an attack on Human Rights!", although the bullshit title for this posting would make one think that. They're saying that many human rights and alternative media sites (one might include Wikileaks under that heading) are under an ever-increasing pressure from attacks like this, which is probably true, and has nothing to do with Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @08:52PM (#34648016)

    "Semantics" has apparently become Internet shorthand for "I am bitter about your statement being completely accurate"

  • by jmac_the_man ( 1612215 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @09:09AM (#34650888)
    No it isn't. A peaceful Hindu wouldn't hurt anyone, nor would a peaceful Muslim, a peaceful Christian, or a peaceful atheist.

    On a related note, no true bachelor is married.

  • Re:No it isn't (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 10101001 10101001 ( 732688 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @10:14AM (#34651234) Journal

    If you are standing at a podium, speaking your mind, and I rush you and duct tape your mouth shut is that free speech?

    That'd be a great point, but that's not inherently what a DDoS is. It's much more like people crowding around the podium and all the speakers so they block other people's access to your speech. AFAIK, that's legal although not in keeping with the spirit of free speech. But, then, it's not really keeping with the spirit of free speech for you to be using speakers in the first place since obviously not everyone has access to them. In effect, the speakers are amplifying your voice above others in the same way a person or company can buy greater bandwidth and servers to communicate to more people. So, from the perspective of the spirit of free speech, the modern US is pretty fucked up about giving each voice an equal chance. But, then, that problem was true as far back as the founding of the US with newspaper barons.

    Shutting down someone for saying something you don't like isn't free speech.

    Assaulting someone is inherently wrong. It's unclear if any or all DDoS are assaults. That's the simple paradox of rivalry of a resource, be it one company buying up all coal to deny others access (and hence access to power their podiums) or a crowd of people blocking access to a podium. Feel free to draw up a magic line when you're suddenly wise enough to note how it's perfectly clear where the current circumstance falls.

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position. -- Christopher Marlowe