Cyber attacks push Ecuadoran news sites offline during protest coverage
Cyber attackers have targeted multiple Ecuadoran news web sites this week amid countrywide protests and ongoing conflicts between various news outlets and the government.
Starting on June 8, pro- and anti-government residents gathered in Quito and other cities in response to proposed tax system reforms and a proposed inheritance tax on capital gains, according to La República. The protests continued through June 11 and have at times devolved into violence.
This week, four different media companies were targeted by cyber attacks that restricted access to their web sites.
The web sites of Ecuavisa.com, LaRepública.ec and Teleamazonas.com were attacked while reporting on protests, according to Ecuavisa.com. Additionally, the site said that the newspaper El Comercio reported irregularities on Facebook.
News site LaRepública.ec resorted to broadcasting protests via Livestream this week after cyber attacks forced its main site offline. The agency used Facebook to tell followers about the attacks and broadcasting updates.
Talking to Fundamedios earlier this week, news site director Carlos Jijón said that the attack was “strong and prolonged” and came from Latin America.
On June 11, La República posted that "For the fourth day, the website of La República was targeted by cyber attacks. We do not know from who."
Verónica Larrea with Fundamedios said she understood the outages were caused by DDoS attacks.
Ecuavisa reported that their director of technology said the following about the attacks: "a crack in communications occurred when multiple connections arrived to our site at the same time, causing the web site to crash."
The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas recently reported on the growing threat of cyber attacks, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks in particular, to media in Latin America. According to the report, legislation against cyber crimes in Latin American is weak in general.
DDoS attacks occur “when millions of simultaneous requests are sent to a single server in order to make it collapse. It is a targeted, deliberate action using hundreds of connected computers to make a simultaneous attack.”
Robert Guerra, cyber security and Internet freedom expert, told the Knight Center that “The main consequence of a cyber attack in the context of Latin America is the reduction of critical spaces that encourage debate or the exposure of misconduct and abuse of power, like corruption.”
At the same time some news portals are reporting cyber attacks during protest coverage, news channels Ecuavisa and Teleamazonas are defending themselves against government officials' allegations that they are conspiring against the government.
In a separate case, newspaper El Universo declared itself to be in defiance after months of back and forth with the Superintendency of Information and Communication (Supercom) concerning the paper's alleged violations of state media laws.
Ecuador is ranked 108 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2015 World Press Freedom Index. It fell 13 places from 2014’s rankings.
RSF said “the media situation is alarming” due to recent legislation and government actions that were meant to democratize media, but have served to limit journalistic practice.
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