A recent report by Harvard University has found that human rights groups are increasingly at risk and falling victim to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.
DDoS attacks work by overwhelming a website with requests to the point of crash or collapse.
University researchers believe that those opposed to human rights groups' activity or stand point are resorting to cyber attacks as a means of forcing a site – and its content – offline.
The report found that over the course of twelve months between mid 2009 to mid 2010, some 140 different DDoS attacks had taken place; with many more presumed to have gone unrecorded.
Despite most DDoS attacks having a temporary effect, the report noted that some human rights groups had struggled to get their sites back up and running; some instances saw websites remain offline for a number of weeks.
The increased number of DDoS attacks has mainly been attributed to the rise in cyber activism with volunteers signing up their personal computers to be used in future attacks.
With the attacks ranging from sites such as Novaya Gazeta – a liberal Russian newspaper – to environmental groups in Vietnam highlighting the dangers of bauxite mining; the issue of DDoS attacks really is on a global scale and of growing concern.
Financial firms suffer at the hands of DDoS cyber security threatsHuman rights groups are not the only victims of online security attacks however, as multinational financial organisations have also experienced a surge in cyber activism and DDoS attacks over the past few weeks.
Following mounting pressure on Wikileaks creator Julian Assange, hackers targeted credit card giant Mastercard and other financial firms such as Paypal and online retailer Amazon who were deemed to be 'censoring' Wikileaks' content and blocking donations.
A statement from cyber group Anonymous – who claims to be behind the attacks – suggested the surge in cyber warfare had only just begun: "We will fire at anything or anyone that tries to censor WikiLeaks, including multibillion-dollar companies such as PayPal.”