This time, everything was different – again.
Instead of countless automated requests to the website flooding the servers and making it unavailable to its intended users, the attack against Pescanik set out on Tuesday 26 August at around 10 pm, counted on its readers. Everyone was meant to see the political message that replaced titles, articles, and even topics: “Stop the lies”.
Summed up as a simple command, it is the same message that the prevalent social paradigm in Serbia has been sending for over twenty years as an answer to any question about war crimes, rampant robbery, corruption, crony economy, stifling the freedom of speech. Each critic of power that took over in the late 80s was accused of lying – either driven by hatred for all Serbs, or as agents of foreign enemies.
The more authoritarian the government, terser is the splutter of its minions’ involvement in the public discourse – the effort of complex, thoughtful and informed criticism is rendered meaningless by this arrogant, persistent reply: “Liar!”
This is the essence of cyber attack that tried to remove, for example, the article by Nadezda Milenkovic about the President of Serbia and instead leave a statement that to criticize the President is, in fact, to lie. Removal of Dubravka Ugresic’s article analyzing the global spectacularization of violence, with a special focus on Balkan butchers’ teeth, is not the work of some computer literate children who have stumbled upon a convenient prey. The message “Stop the lies”, meant to suppress speech on crime and corruption, is a political act.
Unlike brute-force attacks that the site was particularly exposed to (attacks on Pescanik website have indeed become a daily occurrence) at the time when it published the analyses of minister’s of police doctoral thesis, that is the attacks by sheer force and the number of connected bots, this time silencing was attempted by malicious software. And just like the matter of accessing the website was solved at the beginning of the summer, this time, again, the site was saved from the violent removal of content.
The goal of the attack is obvious – instead of producing articles, audio and video shows, editors and authors of Pescanik should use all of their resources for technological protection of the content and occasional scanning of thousands of lines of code in an attempt to determine the origin of the attack. Until the site finally collapses, because it was prone to collapse? Because it can’t survive on a free market, in equal competition of the media and civil initiatives?
The media must be protected from any form of attack – not by technology, but by understanding that in a civilized society one cannot interfere with the freedom of speech. If a masked gang started tearing all copies of daily newspapers at newsstands, no one would ask why did the editorial not pay for a better security. For the same reason, no one should ask Pescanik about the level of technological protection of the site. The site has excellent technological protection. The problem is exposure to political violence, whose suppression and protection of victims should be the job of the state.
Until today, not a single attack against Pescanik was investigated. Just like on previous occasions, the website administrator has collected data of the attack from his logs. Pescanik’s legal team is preparing criminal charges against “persons unknown” based on these data – the code that enabled the content disruption on the website as well as the digital traces left by the attackers while looking for an entry point and during the activation of the code. Editorial staff will work with the legal team and will continue to use all available resources to legally protect Pescanik.
Malicious software, scripts and viruses that can break into and destroy the contents of any website in a blink of an eye, is nowadays very advanced and easily accessible. We live in times when technology has progressed far beyond the limits of ordinary human imagination. Without human ethics and reason, however, sophisticated hackers remain mindless fools.
Pescanik will continue to do its job. In the event of an attack, social networks will serve as a backup location for all authors of Pescanik whose words are forcibly removed from the public sphere.
Pescanik radio show can be heard on:Radio 021 (Novi Sad), Radio Kontakt Plus (Kosovska Mitrovica), Radio Pancevo, Radio Boom 93 (Pozarevac), Antena M (Podgorica, CG), 100 Plus Radio (Novi Pazar), Radio Ozon (Cacak), O.K. Radio (Vranje)…
Translated by Marijana Simic