Indian DDoS attacks come against backdrop of serious Internet freedom issues

By | June 07, 2012

Posted in: Network Security Trends

The wave of DDoS attacks hitting various Indian government websites, as well as those of ISPs, the country’s Supreme Court and a couple of political parties hasn’t gotten all that much play outside that nation, but the themes strike some familiar chords, with Anonymous claiming credit for the attacks in response to court-ordered cutoffs by ISPs of several popular file-sharing sites.

The particular court action that was a catalyst for the recent attacks comes in the context of the Indian government’s policies, which some free speech proponents consider draconian, depending on where you draw the line between Internet freedom and piracy, between freedom of speech and license. Some of the throwing the baby-out-with the bath water arguments that were leveled against SOPA, with justification in my opinion, are in play with the internal controls being exerted in India.

There’s a very good article in Foreign Policy, which provides the background that explains how this all came to pass with passage in 2008 of the Information Technology Act. One section of the act appears to give the government potential carte blanche to direct an ISP to block, monitor or intercept pretty much any information it wants to squelch. According to the article, in April 2011, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology issued new rules under which Internet companies are expected to remove within 36 hours any content that regulators designate as "grossly harmful," "harassing," or "ethnically objectionable." All this uncomfortable government latitude makes objections to CISPA pale by comparison.

Small wonder there’s a movement afoot among some of India’s 100 million-plus Internet users (still only about 10% of the population, but a big number of people), protesting this apparently heavy-handed approach. However, it remains to be seen if Anonymous’ call for street demonstrations in 18 Indian cities this Saturday is any more successful than its still-born attempts to stage street protests against various CISPA supporters in May and June.

And Anonymous undercuts whatever credibility it has by focusing much of its DDoS activity in response to law enforcement actions illegal file sharing operations that foster piracy. Witness its DDoS splash in reaction to the Megaupload take down in January.

Anonymous is empowered by those supporters who consider DDoS attacks for the “good cause” just another form of protest, like marching or staging a sit-in. They are neither. They are criminal actions. If Anonymous is to claim spiritual kinship with Ghandi, let the DDoS attackers turn themselves in after they launch their assaults and take responsibility for their actions.

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