For several days now, a slew of Venezuelan current affairs websites have been under heavy cyberattacks that forced them offline for extended periods of time. Most of them are from independent media outlets (three), but attacks have also targeted two local NGOs and even the Venezuelan Bishops Conference (CEV).

First up, news website CaraotaDigital was taken down for more than 12 hours on March 8th. The following day, fellow news site ElPitazo.com and NGO Provea suffered similar kinds of attacks.

El Pitazo says their site was targetted by two powerful cyberattacks as well in just two days, taking the site offline for 17 hours.

Both Caraota Digital and El Pitazo say they’ve been targeted. Isnardo Bravo, Coordinator-General of Caraota Digital said in a radio interview that there were two attacks against the site this week, first redirecting it to another address and later, knocking it down.

In a statement, El Pitazo says their site was targetted by two powerful cyberattacks as well in just two days, taking the site offline for 17 hours. First, an attack sought to undo the site’s indexing on the Google search engine and then, a DDoS attack that was contained by their tech team.

Cesar Batiz, director of ElPitazo.com, spoke about the cyberattack with Caracas Chronicles: “(The culprits) found a way to hurt us, but in the end they couldn’t penetrate the website”. According to their findings, the perpetrators had very sophisticated means at their disposal. “In previous attacks the source was from Caracas. This time, IP addresses from China and Iraq”.

PROVEA and Accion Solidaria, two local NGOs, were also taken down. Rafael Uzcategui, Coordinator-General of PROVEA confirmed to CC the complex nature of these cyberattacks. “In the case of Accion Solidaria, the site was emptied of all its content and later was taken down”. Uzcategui considers this “the appearance of a new pattern to block the freedom of information”.

PROVEA has been slandered this week in both State Media and hegemony-related outlets for its position of calling the OAS to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter in Venezuela. For Uzcategui, this campaign comes from the Information and Communication Ministry (MinCI).

Earlier this year, two other local media outlets faced cyberattacks that left them offline for several days: El Cambur (January 30th to February 3rd) and Aporrea (February 16 to 22). In the latter case, it was considered to be a complex DDoS attack which differed from previous incidents:

Weeks before the attack, Mision Verdad posted this column, in which they called Aporrea “an opposition page”.

Previous attacks against Aporrea were launched from given regions, which made it easy to block them by ignoring all connections from such region until the attack was finished. In this case, blocking a high number of regions from which the attacks originated would have meant denying many legitimate users access to Aporrea.

In recent years, Aporrea, once the lynchpin of Chavista media outlets, has distanced itself from the State’s communicational hegemony. Its Editor in Chief, Gonzalo Gómez Freire, is one of the promoters of dissident Chavista party Marea Socialista. Weeks before the attack, Mision Verdad posted this column, in which they called Aporrea “an opposition page”.

On March 11th there were two new cyber-casualties: The Venezuelan Bishops Conference, which was able to return online after a few hours and Guayana newspaper Correo del Caroni, which was forced to shut down its website to avoid greater damage.

For the paper, this is the latest chapter of its struggle against the hegemony, after its judicial and newsprint woes. But the paper has reassured readers on a written statement that “…it will keep reporting what the 21st Century dictatorship wants to silence”.

Batiz told CC that this could be the start of a new clampdown on digital news sites in the country: “The government already controls the traditional media (papers, radio & TV), now it wants to take hold of those alternative news sites (not involved with the communicational hegemony) as well”.

Along with a broader strategy to intimidate journalists and doubling down on the hegemony, we could be witnessing a new stage in the government’s repression against the media and NGOs.

6 COMMENTS

  1. General Crespo despite being urged numerous times to close newspapers hostile to his govt never did so , his argument …nobody reads those long winded articles …too boring , instead what he found most alarming were the jokes and catchy phrases people invented to make fun at those in power and expose their foibles , what he feared most of all was popular ridicule …….!!

    He rather thought that having a free press allowed him to gauge the popularity of his ministers , so that once any of them became the target of overwhelming press condemnation he would consider their removal and replacement with a different minister. Also it gave him an idea of what his enemies where planning or thinking at any given time .

    I suspect that there are people friendly to the opposition or who hate the regime ( in practice it amounts to the same thing) that have the resources to hire or create teams of cybernetic bashers and hackers able to take down regime sponsored webs and attacks ….!! they should get moving.

    Have little doubt that much of intraregime communications are already being read by people friendly to the opposition, without making any noise …….!! Besides all the information which people with acces to the circle of power inside the regime reveal to their friends in the opposition ……!!

  2. For about the last week, I have seen a higher level of instability in the internet than usual (even for Venezuela!). Any chance this is related?

  3. “This time, IP addresses from China and Iraq”.

    Sweet, sweet countries, huh.. always involved in the worst worldwide crimes.. Why? bribes as usual, money interests, as always. When in doubt, it’s always about Corruption (religion fanaticism sometimes, but few). China, Iraq, Iran still have various interests and connections in Vzla..

    “Along with a broader strategy to intimidate journalists and doubling down on the hegemony, we could be witnessing a new stage in the government’s repression against the media and NGOs.”

    Why do people still call that mess a “government”. In Spanish, it’s a brutal, incompetent ‘desgobierno’. A bunch of THIEVES is the best definition. A Kleptocracy, Cleptocracia.

    Get it straight.

    Government? What do they govern? The economy? Social issues? Politics? Are they even legitimate?

    It’s a DTND: Disguised Tropical Narco Dictatorship.

    Of course they will repress and dominate the media. But Siglo 21 style.

    You see, these days all criminal dictatorships try to disguise themselves. Pretend to be ‘democratic’, just and fair. Much like Russia or China do. Venezuela is much more awkward, of course.

    They are just a bunch of Enchufados, Thieves, Crooks, usually uneducated, with no moral values. That’s all. So is the Military, guard, police, and most of the “pueblo” people, btw………

    Get it straight. That’s why Vzla is where it is.

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