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‘External attack’ crippled Burma’s internet

Burmese state media has said that an external cyber attack has been launched at its main server, days after critics of the junta blamed it for deliberately sabotaging communications.

The country’s main internet service has been down for nearly two weeks, rendering access to foreign news website, email accounts and a host of domestic services almost impossible.

The New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) said earlier this week: “It does appear that the authorities are deliberately slowing down internet connections to make it more difficult for journalists to file images and video over the Internet ahead of the upcoming elections.”

But the China-based Xinhua news agency today quoted domestic newspaper, Myanmar Newsweek, as saying that the system was the victim of an external cyber attack. It mirrors a comment made to DVB this week by a source close to the ruling junta.

According to Xinhua, the Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications department claim it is the second such attack this year, with one in February paralysing the Yatanarpon Teleport Company service.

It claims the method used in both cases was DDOS, or distributed denial-of-service – the same weapon used to bring down exiled media websites in September, which many claim was the work of the Burmese junta.

Authorities are still to make any official announcement about the problem, although state-run media outlets often act as a mouthpiece for the regime, which is gearing up for its first elections in two decades on Sunday. A number of internet cafes have been forced to close since the slowdown began two weeks ago.

The junta is known to cut internet connection during politically sensitive times, as it did during the September 2007 monk-led uprising. Its intended target is foreign journalists working undercover in the country who send images and information to external media outlets.

Only around 0.2 percent of the Burmese population have regular access to the web, making it one of the lowest countries for internet penetration in the world.


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