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Freedom House: More Web Censorship, Cyberattacks, And Crackdowns On Bloggers

A new study from Freedom House paints a dismal picture of the growing threat to global Internet freedom.

Much of the report, "Freedom on the Net 2011: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media," is business as usual: a global increase in political censorship, government control over Internet infrastructure, and crackdowns on opposition bloggers.

The main offenders are the usual suspects: those to receive Freedom House's "Not Free" designation include Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Iran. (Estonia came out on top, with the greatest degree of Internet freedom.)

The report also documents the increase in cyberattacks against critics of regimes:

Governments and their sympathizers are increasingly using technical attacks to disrupt activists’ online networks, eavesdrop on their communications, and cripple their websites. Such attacks were reported in at least 12 of the 37 countries covered.

For instance in Iran during the postelection crisis in 2009, many opposition sites were disabled by denial of service (DOS) attacks. Or in Belarus in December 2010, where opposition sites were targeted (and in some cases mirrored) after postelection protests.

In recent years, there has been a democratization and amateurization of DOS attacks -- no sophisticated hacking skills required, just a willing computer. (For a good example of how anyone can be involved in a DDOS attack, see the hacker collective Anonymous's "low orbit ion cannon.")

As the report points out, there has also been a rise in the number of DOS attacks "perpetrated by nonstate actors for ordinary criminal purposes…particularly as internet penetration deepens and more users turn to the medium for shopping, banking, and other activities."

Read the full report here.