Hackers have targeted major Ghanaian news websites, as the coalition of media houses intensifies a campaign, for the ban of illegal mining commonly referred to as galamsey [gather and sell] in Ghana.
At least four major websites, Ghanaweb.com, Peacefmonline.com, Myjoyononline.com and Adomonline.com have come under attack in the last three weeks.
Multitvworld.com which is also under the Multimedia Group was also affected. These websites were un-accessible for some time during the period of the attacks.
Every day, various websites do get hundreds of attempted attacks that are considered normal by webmasters and expected, but not on a similar scale as the one currently being experienced by the news websites.
The Daily Graphic has gathered that the attacks mainly originated from hackers in China and that they were in the nature of distributed denial of service (DDoS).
What is DDoS
A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is an attack in which multiple compromised computer systems attack a target, such as a server, website or other network resource, and cause a denial of service for users of the targeted resource.
The hackers normally flood the targets with millions of messages, connection requests or malformed packets.
This forces the target to slow down or even crash and shut down, thereby denying service to legitimate users or systems. When this happens, legitimate users are unable to visit the target website.
A number of the editors of the affected websites told the Daily Graphic that investigations were ongoing to ascertain the cause of the hacking.
“We are all gathering data. We have made a lot of progress and will officially file a complaint with National Security after our internal investigations.
“There appears to be a sponsored attack on the websites of the media houses. What usually happens is that others go down when hacked websites revive their operations,” a website editor noted.
In the case of Ghanaweb, the attack happened around Easter three weeks ago and the webmasters had to work around the clock to restore service after some days. Ghanaweb issued a notice to inform visitors it was resolving a technical issue.
The Daily Graphic gathers that the attackers demanded for a ransom but Ghanaweb ignored them.
With respect to Peacefmonline, the desktop version of the website was not accessible for sometime and it was only the mobile site which was accessible during the period of the attack.
In the case of Myjoyonline.com, Adomonline.com and Multitvworld.com, it was noticed around Thursday that the sites were having technical issues and for four days they were not accessible. It was announced on the radio station, Joy FM that the sites were having technical issues and that efforts were underway to resolve it.
As of press time Sunday, Myjoyonline was yet to be back online but Adomonline and Multitvworld were back online.
The media has been at the forefront mounting pressure for a ban on illegal mining.
Mr Kenneth Ashigbey, a member of the steering committee of the coalition of media houses in the fight against galamsey suspects that the attacks were deliberate to frustrate the media’s fight against galamsey.
There was a sense of alarm and dismay when some state websites were recently hacked and put out of action for a while.
The views of Ghanaian cyber security experts were that, there could be more of such attacks on government agencies and companies as well as on important private establishments if the nation does not develop and implement a cyber security strategy to address cyber warfare, sabotage and espionage.
Just last week the Bank of Ghana (BoG) cautioned banks to guard against vulnerability to cyber-attacks as a result of a growing threat of cyber-attacks and recent instances of fraudulent payments online.