Over the course of 2014, ARTICLE 19 has documented a total of 12 cyber-attacks on news portals in Mexico, all at moments when they were reporting acts of corruption or irregularities detected in the civil service.
The online news portals e-consulta.com in Puebla, Chiapas Paralelo in Chiapas and Mientras Tanto en México in Jalisco have all suffered cyber-attacks aimed at bringing their websites down.
In the case of e-consulta.com, the attacks began on the morning of Tuesday 18 November. The site’s managers and staff noticed that a malicious code known as an exploit had been introduced into their system, deleting files and databases. The portal was down for several hours.
Further attacks were noted up to and including Monday 24 November but Rodolfo Ruíz, CEO of e-consulta, stated in an interview for ARTICLE 19 that these attacks had not been of any major consequence.
The attacks on e-consulta.com came at a time when the site was covering the protests occurring in Chalchihuapan, those taking place due to the construction of the Intermunicipal Park on the Cholula archaeological site, known as the Park of the 7 Cultures, and which resulted in cancellation of the project, and the alleged acts of corruption in the purchase of electric cultivators by the state government.
In the case of the Chiapas Paralelo site, the online news site began receiving denial-of-service (DoS) attacks on Friday 21 November. A DoS consists of saturating a site with millions of user access requests, causing it to suspend its service.
Chiapas Paralelo was out of operation for three days, coming back online on Monday 24 November. According to staff journalist, Isaín Mandujano, the attacks began after he and a colleague, Gabriela Cutiño, were assaulted by security guards at an event organised by federal deputy Manlio Fabio Beltrones in Tuxtla Gutiérrez on Wednesday 19 November.
The Jalisco online news site, Mientras Tanto en México, suffered two DoS attacks in less than a week. According to Karla Rivera, the site’s director, one of the IP addresses in question was a government body in the state of Morelos. The second attack took place on Monday night, shortly after a video had been uploaded criticising the police action during demonstrations on 20 November, and broadcasting President Peña’s response in this regard. In an interview with ARTICLE19, Rivera stated that this attack was the fourth one suffered this year.
Cyber-attacks against online news sites undermine their journalists’ and contributors’ freedom of speech and are a violation of society’s right to be informed.
ARTICLE 19 is calling on the federal and Veracruz authorities to investigate these events, guarantee the integrity of the sites’ contributors and protect their right to gather and disseminate information without suffering any form of pressure.