by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Government-sanctioned attacks against activists, journalists, and opposition politicians who expose corruption and abuse in repressive regimes are on the rise, according to a new report on internet freedom released Tuesday by an American pro-democracy group.
Freedom House detected cyberattacks against regime critics in 34 of the 65 countries studied in its 2017 Freedom on the Net report, marking a nearly 40 percent increase from 2016.
Regimes or associated actors are increasingly taking out independent blogs and news sites by deploying a common method of cyber attack known as a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) strike—the use of networked, hijacked computers to flood websites with data requests that overwhelm the sites and disrupt or shut down their operations. The report found instances of government-backed DDoS attacks in 18 countries, many of which were backed by the government, including in Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Mexico, and China.
Governments, along with non-state actors, have also increasingly turned to bots to manipulate online discussions and drown out dissidents on social media platforms.