Sunday, January 10, 2010

Singapore hack attacks reveal growing importance of citizen journalism sites

The Online Citizen, one of Singapore's leading citizen journalism websites, is currently out of action because of a "denial of service" attack. I'm no tech expert but I'm led to believe that this means that a hacker (or group of hackers) bombard a website with so many requests for information that it crashes.

This is the first recent such attach on The Online Citizen but another alternative news website in Singapore, the Temasek Review, has come under such attack on several occasions in the last few months.

What is going on here? The unwashed pyjama-clad conspiracy brigade like to believe that Singapore's much-feared but rarely seen Internal Security Department is behind these moves to disrupt Singapore's nascent independent news providers.

Given the many more discrete tools at their disposal, I find it extremely doubtful that the government would use such a blunt method.

If they really wanted to disrupt the citizen journalism scene, I expect they would require all "political" news websites to register and put up a "security bond" of several thousand dollars or bring a libel/contempt of court case against one of the websites to send waves of fear coursing through the still-cautious Singaporean blogosphere.

More likely is that some pesky delinquent - and there is no shortage of tech savvy, disaffected youths in Singapore - has decided it would be fun to take down a few prominent websites.

And that, in many respects, is a compliment to the growing power of sites like The Online Citizen and Temasek Review. Comment trolls (who spout abuse or proffer porn links in the comments section) and web hackers are the online equivalents of the green-ink brigade, the scathing if often less than coherent correspondents who pass their days by writing into newspapers and TV news stations to complain of perceived inaccuracies and bias while usually serving up a healthy dose of invective and abuse.

If they (whoever they may be) are bothering to try and take you down, then you must be doing something right, so keep up the good work.



  1. Ben, I think u r wrong. To clamp down openly will do more damage to their international image than to engage others to mount an attack. Engaging in illegal activities to further their agenda is nothing new to the pap government. In the 60's they resorted to gangsters/arsonists to clear villages on the cheap to make way for development. A few of them were caught redhanded and nothing came out of it when they were handed over to the police. I lived through that period in Singapore and witnessed it.

  2. I think the PAP have moved on a bit since the 1960s. I don't doubt that they are concerned about the rise of alternative voices on the internet but I personally find it hard to believe they would employ such primitive hacking techniques.

    What's the point in shutting down access to The Online Citizen or Temasek Review for just a few hours? What would the govt stand to gain?