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Scottish news site hit by 'DDoS attack' in run-up to elections

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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Politically-motivated hackers are thought to be behind a DDoS attack on alternative news site Newsnet Scotland, launched on Monday days before Scotland is due to vote in fiercely contested national elections.

The attack, if that's what it is, left the site unavailable from Monday afternoon into the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Publishers of the site said the evidence so far suggests that unknown parties have launched a denial of service attack against the media outlet, which advocates greater Scottish independence and takes a dim view of the "unchallenged voice of Unionism".

Internal investigations are continuing in order to track down the root of the problem and to ensure that it cannot recur. However our server administrator has informed us that the most likely cause is a Denial of Service (DOS) Attack. The pattern of activity which the site IT team detected points toward such an explanation.

Denial of Service Attacks are deliberate attempts to censor and close down websites which the attackers find 'troublesome'. Recently websites supporting Tibetan independence were subject to co-ordinated DOS Attacks which were later discovered to have originated in China. We have strong reason to fear that certain individuals or groups with an interest in Scottish politics may be adopting the tactics of the Chinese government in censoring media freedom of speech online.

Newsnet Scotland made a decision to host its server in Denmark, on legal advice. Despite apparent attempts to knock out its servers with junk traffic, the news outlet is keen to stress that names and email addresses supplied by readers remain safe and secure.

If a denial of service attack was responsible for taking out the site on Monday, a point that remains unproven, then Newsnet doesn't know who launched the attack or what exactly might have provoked the apparent hacklash, though it's not short on theories.

Although we are occasionally ascerbic [sic] and strong in our criticisms of Unionist parties, Newsnet has always operated strictly legitimately and above board.  We play by the rules.  But it seems that perhaps certain groups or individuals do not like what we have to say, and do not want ordinary Scottish people to hear it.

Newsnet was offline all day in the midst of a closely fought election campaign which has seen the Labour party plummet from shoe-in favourites to second runners. Every second that Newsnet is offline buys more time for the unchallenged domination of Scottish news by the Unionist mainstream Scottish broadcast and print media.

Scottish media freedom of speech online now appears to be threatened by those who would prefer the unchallenged voice of Unionism to prevail.

The site ends its statement on a defiant note, stating that "Newsnet will not be silenced… and the people of Scotland will not be silenced either."

Newsnet, established by volunteers last year, could not be reached for further comment at the time of going to press. We'll update this story as and when we hear more.

Scotland is due to go the polls on 5 May to vote for seats in the Scottish Parliament, as well as a UK-wide referendum on the voting system for Westminster that will decide whether the country adopts proportional representation (specifically alternative vote) as an alternative to the traditional system, which is based solely on which candidate gets the most crosses (first preference votes) on a ballot paper. @

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