Azerbaijani government sparks an “open season” on critical websites amid pre-election crackdown

August 20th, 2013

The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) strongly condemns the cyber attacks targeting  their website and Azadliq, a website of popular opposition newspaper. The attacks began last Tuesday, 13 August, and have during seven days been targeting servers in Iceland and Sweden.

Freedom of expression in Azerbaijan is increasingly under attack in run up to presidential election in October, now by anonymous hackers who have launched unprecedented cyber terror against those who distribute information unwelcome to the authorities.

“The hacking is an attack on Azerbaijanis’ fundamental right to free speech and another example of the government’s intent to stifle free speech ahead of presidential election’, IRFS CEO and Chair EminHuseynov said

During one week’s time, uninterrupted denial of service (DDoS) attacks have been launched against Azadliq and IRFS websites. The attacks include a wide rage of DDoS attacks, such as Layer 7, UDP, SYN floodings, and DNS reflection attacks.

The attackers have tried to take the websites down and also the DNS servers that host them, according to IRFS’s cyber security response team. The attackers hide their location by using third party computers to launch their attacks.

The Azadliq newspaper has asked the Ministry of the National Security in Azerbaijan to investigate the attacks, but the agency has not taken any discernible action, according to newspaper management.

“Those are only the attacks that we know about, though. Some media organizations choose not to report incidents, and the majority of cyber attacks go undiscovered,” said EminHuseynov.

IRFS calls on other media organizations to join the IRFS’ campaign to stop cyber war against free expression, at least by reporting attacks to IRFS cyber security response team.

IRFS calls on the authorities to investigate all cases of cyber attacks against critical websites in Azerbaijan, and bring those responsible to justice.