Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Naypyitaw denies journalist hacking allegations

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Tuesday, 12 February 2013 12:59 Mizzima News

The Myanmar government denied on Monday that it attempted to hack into the email accounts of journalists who reported receiving warnings from Google that they may have been the targets of “state-sponsored attackers.”

According to a report by The Associated Press (AP), at least 12 reporters, including one of its own Yangon-based correspondents, received messages from Google last week when they tried to access their Gmail accounts. The messages said hackers “may be attempting to compromise your account or your computer.”

A spokesman for Google, Taj Meadows, confirmed to AP that the company issues such warnings to protect users. But he said he could not disclose how Google knows the activity is “state-sponsored" without giving away information that would help attackers avoid detection.

But Myanmar presidential spokesman Ye Htut denied the allegations and has called on Google to identify those responsible “because the vague reference to state-sponsored attackers hurts the image of the government.”

“There is no state-sponsored attack on individual accounts,” said Ye Htut, who is also the deputy information minister. “That's not a policy of our government.”

AP said that journalists who reported receiving the recent hacking warnings from Google include Burmese correspondents for Agence France-Presse, Reuters and Kyodo News, as well as local reporters from The Voice Weekly and the Eleven Media Group.

The allegations were first reported by New York Times correspondent Thomas Fuller in a report on February 10.

On February 6, Mizzima editor-in-chief Soe Myint circulated word among staff in Yangon and Chiang Mai that he suspected hacking was taking place. “Our IT in-charge has warned that there are suspected ‘attackers’ attempting to breach into our computer system and email accounts,” he said.

According to Shawn Crispin, the Southeast Asia representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists: “Cyberattacks on news websites and apparent government hacking into journalists' email accounts have raised new questions about the integrity of media reforms in Burma.”
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