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Burma’s cyber warriors have gone from relative obscurity to this year making the country the world’s top source for internet attack traffic, according to a recent study by leading US tracking company Akamai.
The findings are particularly alarming given that Burma did not even feature in the top 10 source countries in Akamai’s survey last year; in the first quarter of 2011, however, it accounted for 13 percent of total global attack traffic, ranking above the US, Taiwan, Russia and China.
Whether individuals or groups inside Burma are behind the results, or whether Burma is being used as a proxy through which to bounce external attacks, is unclear, Akamai says.
A spate of DDoS, or distributed denial of service, attacks against exiled media websites last year are suspected to have been launched by Burmese government operatives, although the sources of the attacks were located in more than 30 countries.
Cyber attackers are known to use countries like Burma, China and Russia, even Israel and Kazakhstan, where internet security laws are malleable. The DDoS strategy has become the Burmese junta’s key weapon of cyber warfare, despite many countries outlawing it – in the UK, conviction of DDoS can carry a 10-year prison sentence.
Burma’s government last year set out on a programme to develop the country’s internet system. While it claimed to be undertaking an “upgrade” aimed at boosting access in a country where only two percent of the population have regular access to the web, media watchdogs cried foul.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders released a report saying that the overhaul actually increased surveillance of users and introduced a third ISP (internet service provider) which reserves “the fastest and best-quality [internet] access for the government and military”.