June 4, 2020updated 05 Jun 2020 3:32pm

Cyberattacks against anti-racism organisations surge following death of George Floyd

By Ellen Daniel

Anti-racism organisations have been the victims of a surge in cyberattacks, particularly DDoS attacks, according to research by Cloudflare.

This follows the death of George Floyd, who was killed while in police custody, sparking protests around the world from the Black Lives Matter movement. Ex-police officer Derek Chauvin has since been charged with murder and the other three officers at the scene have also been charged.

DDoS, or distributed denial of service attacks, are when an attacker attempts to flood a website or server with bots so it is overloaded and has to be taken offline, meaning users cannot access it.

Website security company Cloudflare found that attacks against US anti-racism advocacy groups increased 1,120-fold between 26 May and 01 June compared with the last week in April.

This is based on the number cyberattack HTTP requests blocked by Cloudflare, which overall saw a month-on-month increase of 17% between April and May. Anti-racism advocacy groups in the US saw the biggest increase in cyberattacks, with one site peaking at 20,000 requests per second.

In a blogpost, Cloudflare said:

“Unfortunately, if recent history is any guide, those who speak out against oppression will continue to face cyberattacks that attempt to silence them.

“Cloudflare remains committed to making sure that they can continue to function in the face of these attacks, regardless of their resources or the size of the attack. If you know of an organization or group helping to fight racism that needs Project Galileo’s protection, please let them know we’re here and ready to help.”

In 2014 Cloudflare launched Project Galileo after observing that a disproportionate number of attacks were being directed at organisations and individuals that were advocating for marginalised groups. The project provides cybersecurity protection for such organisations. Anti-racism organisations that participate in Project Galileo have experienced a “dramatic increase” in attacks over the last week.

Jake Moore, Cybersecurity Specialist at ESET said:

“DDoS attacks can be extremely frustrating for the web owners, and you tend to find less frequented sites do not have DDoS protection in place. However, after a particular topical story gains worldwide attention, there is a habitual influx of denial of service attacks by immature pranksters just for kicks. Such attacks can last a matter of minutes or go on for days depending on how big their egos are in terms of trying to get media attention.

“Charities and NGOs often forget they will become a victim of their own success and be targeted due to the charitable work they offer, but once anyone raises their head above the parapet, they become a focus for the masses. Unfortunately, however benevolent their work is, pranksters will always follow and abuse the skills they have learnt nefariously.”

Read more: Secure messaging app Signal introduces face blur to protect protesters’ identities.