Web Hackers Poke Fun at Burmese IT Ministry

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 4 July 2014

RANGOON — Hackers infiltrated the website of Burma’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology on Friday morning, replacing government logos on the homepage with cartoon renderings of turtles, perhaps as a critique of slow Internet connections.

The website defacement came after access to Facebook was apparently blocked overnight in the country, with some speculating that the government cut off use of the social media site to avoid the posting of hate speech or rumors that could fuel further unrest in Mandalay.

On Friday morning, two government logos on the top of the ministry’s homepage were replaced with turtle cartoons, including one holding a sign that read, “Burmese turtle.”

Ye Myat Thu, a Mandalay-based member of the Myanmar Computer Industry Association, said the ministry’s website was vulnerable to cyber-attacks due to poor security mechanisms.

“Every government ministry should have a standard cyber security… Here, hacking is easy, even for local hackers,” he told The Irrawaddy.

“Ministries work with IT companies that are close to the government, and these companies use readymade open sources for their websites. Such systems do not guard well against hacking, and that’s why some government ministries are very easy to hack.”

Htike Htike Aung, program manager of the Myanmar ICT Development Organization (MIDO), an NGO that advocates for free speech and offers ICT trainings, said the President’s Office website would also be easy to infiltrate due to a lack of security measures.

Myanmar Post and Telecommunication, which is part of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, is the main Internet provider in Burma, and has long been criticized for slow connections. Two international telecoms companies, Telenor and Ooredoo, will begin operating in the country soon and are expected to offer speedier services.

“Local users are really unhappy about MPT’s Internet services and mobile data speed. They are only patiently using these services because other international telecoms companies have not started working yet. Definitely many people will stop using MPT when the foreign firms come,” Aye Chan, a regular Internet user in Rangoon, told the Irrawaddy.

A Rangoon-based IT technician said server misconfigurations could have left the ministry’s website vulnerable. Failure to upgrade software may have also been to blame, or a poorly written website. “Hackers can keep finding flaws,” he said, adding, “The turtle picture was shameful and hilarious.”

A ministry official declined to comment on the website defacement when contacted by The Irrawaddy. The ministry fixed the problem by Friday afternoon.