The Kashmir Walla was targeted in a coordinated cyber attack

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Dear readers,

Many of you have reached out to us regarding the inaccessibility to the coverage at The Kashmir Walla. We regret to inform you that on Wednesday evening, 6 May 2020, the servers hosting the website of The Kashmir Walla came under a coordinated and multipronged cyberattack that led to the website crashing within hours.

The managers of our server immediately analysed the nature of the attack and identified it as Bruteforce and DDoS (Distributed denial of service) attacks launched from multiple IP addresses. The Kashmir Walla lost control of the website as the server managers continued to attempt gaining back access to our website for next 24 hours.

In the meanwhile, the attackers had been successful in deleting the content published on Wednesday and we were able to regain control only the next day. However, The Kashmir Walla was once again attacked on Thursday night and reportage on our website was removed. The fresh attack on The Kashmir Walla showed greater intensity.

We sought further analysis about the attack from a Kashmir based Software Engineer, Abid Rashid, who explained what were the attacks trying to achieve. “Your site has been attacked using a brute force method, which means a hacker was trying to use every possible key i.e. username and passwords to gain access to your website internally. It means the hacker would then be able to delete your website and alter your news stories,” Mr. Rashid told us.

After reviewing the server usage and details, he added, that another attack that was carried out on the website is called DDoS. “It is a malicious attempt to disrupt normal traffic,” he added. “It is like sending too much fake traffic to your website beyond its capacity, which in result makes the website inaccessible to the public and if the required security is not in place, the website crashes. Crashing a daily media like yours can be disastrous.”

While we cannot say with confirmation who were behind these attacks, the timing is deeply suspicious. Attacks against the press in Kashmir have intensified off late compelling us to not view this incident in isolation. The attacks were launched in a period of two days only since Wednesday and we think it is an attempt to silence us by using technology and causing the loss of valuable coverage of the ground situation in Kashmir.

The attacks had begun just hours after we published stories about the gunfight between militants and government forces in southern Kashmir’s Pulwama district which resulted in the killing of top militant commander Riyaz Naikoo, his militant aide, and one civilian. The last story we had reported before the attack commenced was the death of a civilian in the aftermath of the gun battle.

We are working on fully restoring our website from backups as well as installing additional security features to prevent or contain these attacks in the future. DDoS attacks are routinely used by entities attempting to silence critics and competitors and in the past DDoS attacks have been carried out on many websites, including Wikipedia in 2019.

We at The Kashmir Walla remain committed to reporting the truth without fear or favour and resolve to not let these attacks deter us in our work. We request your patience and solidarity as we struggle to keep the free media alive in Kashmir.

Regards,

The Kashmir Walla Team

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