Thai government websites dropped offline this week in what was either a politically motivated distributed denial-of-service attack or a case of badly designed websites falling over in response to an unusual increase in visitor numbers.
The outage started late on Wednesday and was resolved on Thursday – coinciding with protests about proposals to tighten up net censorship in the south-east Asian country.
Targets included the ministry of information, communications and technology (ICT) and the main Thai government portal at thaigov.go.th, the BBC reports.
Tens of thousands have signed a petition protesting against a proposal to introduce a system dubbed the "Great Firewall of Thailand" by critics (a reference to China’s infamous web filtering censorship system). The Thai military government has stepped up effort to block websites and pursue online critics, with criminal proceedings being issued in recent months.
Thailand is planning to establish a single government-controlled gateway as a tool to further control access to “inappropriate websites and information flows from other countries".
As well as posing privacy concerns, Thais are concerned the proposed single gateway plan would roll back internet access speeds and reliability to the days before telecom market liberalisation, the last time content flowed through a single gateway.
Activist groups, and hacktivist groups like Anonymous and others, have long used DDoS attacks in assault against the US and Canadian governments, so it’ll be be no big surprise that other web activists are attempting the same approach. Normally an effective DDoS relies on a botnet attack platform of compromised systems but the Thai protests may have taken a different form.
Thai people were encouraged via various social media protests to visit the named websites and repeatedly refresh them on Wednesday. The effect seems to have been a sort of hand-cranked DDoS.
ICT Deputy Permanent Secretary Somsak Khaosuwan admitted that his ministry's website had fallen over but said this was because surfers were checking to see whether an attack was happening, rather than as a direct result of any successfully planned assault, the Bangkok Post reports. ®