Alternative media groups file civil case amid cyberattacks

MANILA, Philippines – Alternative media groups on Friday, March 29, filed a civil case against groups and individuals believed to be behind the cyberattacks on the news groups' websites.

In a 28-page complaint, Alipato Media Center Inc, Altermidya-People's Alternative Media Network Inc, Kodao Productions Inc, and Pinoy Media Center Inc filed a civil case against the following:

IP Converge Data Services Inc and its officers:

Suniway Group of Companies Inc and its officers

Alipato is the publisher of Bulatlat, while Pinoy Media Center is the publisher of Pinoy Weekly.

University of the Philippines journalism professor and Bulatlat associate editor Danilo Arao said they filed the case past 11 am Friday at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court. He confirmed the case was raffled to Branch 220.

"The magnitude, scope, and scale of the cyberattacks suggest that they were targeted, deliberate, and organized," a copy of the complaint read. The groups said the cyberattacks "could not have occurred without being orchestrated and well-funded."

"The attackers employed a wide array of technological means and methods to conduct various forms of DDoS attacks against Plaintiffs' websites.... Individual defendants, being private individuals who directly or indirectly obstructed, defeated, violated, impeded or impaired Plaintiffs freedom to maintain publications shall be liable to the latter for damages pursuant to Article 32(3) of the Civil Code."

DDoS attack

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in a statement said Bulatlat was the first of the news groups to be attacked in late December 2018. An IT expert then warned Bulatlat's editorial staff that this may be a case of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

A DDoS attack is a type of malicious cyberattack in which a site or service is overhwhelmed by an attacker increasing the traffic to it beyond what it can support, thus preventing the site or service from operating properly. This can by done by the attacker using a network of computers and devices he has compromised for that purpose.

Amid the cyberattacks, Swedish nonprofit Qurium, which provides rapid response services to media groups and civil society organizations, provided mitigation services to Alipato, Altermidya, and Pinoy Media Center.

"Qurium’s investigation resulted in the discovery of Defendants IP Converge and Suniway as the sources of attacks," the complaint read.

In a detailed report on their website, Qurium said they attempted to contact the Cyber Security Philippines Computer Emergency Response Team and IP Converge regarding the DDoS attacks with their findings, but did not get any response. 

The NUJP on Friday said it "fully supports" the civil case, pointing out that the filing happened on the 25th anniversary of the Internet in the Philippines.

"This civil action sends a clear message to those who seek to silence the independent Philippine media: Not only will you fail, we will fight back," the NUJP said.

It added: "We will fight back because we cannot allow you to deprive our people of their right to the information they need to chart their individual and collective futures, we cannot allow you to deprive them of their voice. We will fight back because no less than democracy and our basic freedoms are at stake." – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.

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