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Human rights groups get DDoSed all the time

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) are being used to effectively silence human rights groups, threatening free speech on the web, a report has found.

A study conducted by Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society (PDF) found that DDoS attacks have been used to prevent human rights groups and dissident media websites from spreading information about their cause.

Such groups are unable to prevent such attacks, owing to a lack of resources, and suffer crippling downtime.

The institute polled 300 human rights and media groups, of which 45 respondents, or 14 per cent, would openly discuss the fact that their website had been subjected to a DDoS attack. Around 62 per cent of those that responded said that they had suffered a DDoS attack in the last year, whilst 61 per cent admitted that they had suffered unexplained downtime.

Ethan Zuckerman, a researcher who led the study, said: "Human rights and independent media sites are under constant attack. DDoS attacks make it harder than ever for these groups to keep an online presence."