popular Burmese Web site photayokeking.org, edited by a Burmese army deserter, was recently attacked

MAE SOT — The popular Burmese Web site photayokeking.org, edited by a Burmese army deserter, was recently attacked, leaving it inaccessible and out of operation.

According to one of the editors, who goes by the name Photayoke, the Web site came under major attacks on May 27 and June 11, following three smaller attacks.

On June 11, the server provider sent an email to the Web site’s owners stating that a major distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) had been focused on their data center.

Although there is no evidence to prove it, the Web site’s owners are convinced that the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), Burma’s ruling junta, was behind the virtual attack.

“We know the SPDC attacked our Web site. They are afraid of us because we get the secret information from our close contacts inside the Tatmadaw,” said Photayoke, referring to Burma’s armed forces.

“Then the exiled radio stations like Democratic Voice of Burma and Voice of America broadcast our information to soldiers on the front line in Burma,” he said.

The site received its first major attack on May 27—the same day, according to the Web site’s owners, that the SPDC held a press conference in Naypyidaw accusing Maj Aung Lynn Htut, a former senior intelligence officer, of stealing US $85,586.45 when he defected from the Burmese embassy in Washington, DC, in March 2005.

In response to the accusations, Aung Lynn Htut wrote a letter, which was posted on photayokeking.org, explaining that he was unable to deposit the money in a US bank because of sanctions, but had transferred it in Washington.

Photayokeking.org was set up in May 2008 in order to provide “real information” about the Burmese military, according to the site’s owners. It relies on soldiers inside the Tatmadaw to provide intelligence about the secretive army’s activities and meetings.

“We want to show that all the subordinate soldiers until brigadier-general rank are disappointed with the military regime and are experiencing the same suffering as the civilians,” said Photayoke.

In order to avoid problems with Burmese spies and hackers, the Web site’s owners took the precaution of using a more expensive server in the US, instead of Thailand.

The server, based in Los Angeles, has since said that it would no longer be able to host the Photayokeking.org because of the dangers it posed to other customers’ Web sites.

The cost of creating a new Web site is $8,000 per year, making it difficult to re-launch the site, according to its owners.

This isn’t the first time a Burmese opposition Web site has come under attack. During the September 2007 Saffron Revolution, when thousands of monks and civilians took to the streets to protest against continued military rule, several exiled media sites were disabled by cyber attacks.

Professional hackers infected The Irrawaddy Web site with a Trojan virus, which left the site inoperable at a time when the world was relying on the exiled media for information about the brutal crackdown.

In September 2008, The Irrawaddy was targeted again, this time by a DDoS attack—the same method that closed down photayoke.org. Jammed with fake traffic by “robot” visitors, The Irrawaddy’s online news service was put out of operation for three days.

A DDoS attack is orchestrated by hiring a hacker who controls thousands of PCs around the world and uses them to attack the victim Web site. Fees for the services of the hacker vary according to the size and duration of the attack, but usually start at around $500.

INET, the second largest host server in Thailand, confirmed that The Irrawaddy Web site, www.irrawaddy.org, became the target of a DDoS attack on Sept. 17, 2008.

The CAT Telecom Public Co. Ltd and some ISPs blocked the site as a “danger zone” following the attacks.

The attacks coincided with the first anniversary of the regime’s brutal suppression of the Saffron Revolution and also put other exiled media sites, such as MizzimaDemocratic Voice of Burma and the Bangkok-based New Era Journal, out of action.

Mizzima has been repeatedly attacked by pro-SPDC hackers in an effort to shut down its Web site.

In October 2008, a group of hackers calling themselves the “Independence Hackers from Burma” shut down mizzima.com for nearly ten hours.

In an interview with The Irrawaddy, former SPDC spy, Kyaw Myint Myo, said that SPDC intelligence has hired foreign computer technicians and hackers to monitor e-mail messages and telephone conversations at home and in neighboring countries.

“They [the technicians and hackers] are North Korean, Singaporeans and Russians.”

Like other Web sites that have been blocked, photayokeking.org has been moved to a blog address, photayokeking.blogspot.com, until its administrators are ready to re-launch the site.


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