“The Irrawaddy websites were hacked this morning and a number of fake articles were posted on our English-language homepage. We are currently trying to fix the problem and protect our website from further intrusion.”
According to the Washington Post, the spurious content included an article that alleged a feud between pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi and the editor of Irrawaddy, Aung Zaw. Another article falsely claimed singer May Sweet had died.
The content was subsequently removed from the site.
May Sweet said on Facebook that rumours of her death were exaggerated. She observed that this was the second time hoaxes about her demise had been published.
In a statement on Facebook the singer and her husband cast doubt on what they called Irrawaddy’s “claim” that the content was posted without its consent.
Although stating that the site “is easily hacked”, May Sweet alleged that Irrawaddy “was caught red handed [and] they don’t have the courage to apologise”. The statement continued: “The site has a bunch of uneducated, unethical and unconfident leaders that has no integrity running the media just to generate hits to the site to increase ad clicks to make cheap money by destroying our status”.
A fuller statement about the incident was made in Burmese on the Irrawaddy blog. In the comments, a user purporting to be May Sweet’s husband commented:
“WTF…..You should have your servers more secure and invest more money to protect hackers like that. Now I simply don’t trust your source or the creditability of your news!!!!”
In an Irrawaddy article published on Monday afternoon, Aung Zaw said the articles were posted to “create confusion and misunderstanding,” and that those responsible were possibly pro-government supporters or even agents of the govenments “cyber warfare department”.
The website also conceded that it was vulnerable to security breaches, and promised to take steps to resolve this.
The Irrawaddy’s sites have come under cyber attack on several occasions in the past. In September 2008 editor Aung Zaw reported on how the site and its mirror both came under distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and were taken offline by their hosting companies. Since then Irrawaddy and other Burmese dissident media have come under regular attack, especially during anniversaries of the 2007 “Saffron Revolution”.