Information Warfare: Cyber War Mercenaries


September25, 2008:  In Myanmar (Burma), the military dictatorship has used Cyber War techniques to shut down the three opposition web sites that provide the most information on what is going on inside the country. The generals apparently hired several botnets (networks of illegally controlled PCs, yours might be one of them and you wouldn't know it) to smother the anti-dictatorship websites with phony visitors (a "DDOS attack"). The botnets (tens, or hundreds of thousands of hijacked PCs) are run by criminals who rent them out for sending spam, DDOS attacks or several other types of Internet based scams. The Myanmar government launched these DDOS attacks now because of major demonstrations that occurred in Myanmar this time last hear.

The generals shut down those demonstrations, which were led by Buddhist monks mobilizing popular unrest over an increase in the price of fuel. The unrest was suppressed with arrests, raids on monasteries and shutting down cell phone and Internet service. Several hundred demonstrators have been killed. Similar disturbances in 1998 resulted in violence that left over 3,000 dead (mostly demonstrators). The military are not just killing people, but very effectively shutting down any organization the demonstrators have. The army and police have planned for this sort of thing better than the demonstrators.

Myanmar has been ruled by a military dictatorship for the last 45 years. The generals have run the economy into the ground, and succeeded in suppressing all attempts at establishing a representative government. They have also managed to maintain the support of a fairly large army. How have they managed to pull this off for so long? Simple, the generals have concentrated on maintaining the loyalty of the officers and senior NCOs in the armed forces. This is done by making the military a well paid, by Burmese standards, profession, and select carefully from among those who apply to be career soldiers.

 About one percent of Burma's 50 million people are in the armed forces (including paramilitary intelligence and security secret police type organizations.) The secret police keep an eye on the troops, and the troops keep an eye (and often gun pointed at) the people. Myanmar only spends about a billion dollars a year on the armed forces, most of that going to pay and living expenses of infantry troops. But there's enough left over to hire Cyber War mercenaries.



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