There is some evidence that some governments are starting to use hackers and botnets to crush opposition sites.
The most recent case has been a computer virus which infected more than 10,000 machines and then used them to conduct DoS attacks on online forums critical of the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party.
According to the FT, similar attacks have been waged on anti-Russian sites operated from conflict zones in the Caucuses. Politicians at odds with the Kremlin have also been targeted by “pro-government” hackers.
Insecurity experts at SecureWorks said they could not prove that the new virus, which they dubbed Vecebot was unleashed by the government or someone working for it.
However, there was some interesting timing involved in the release of the virus into the wild. On October 19, a Vietnamese blogger using the name Dieu Cay was to be released after serving a 30-month sentence.
SecureWorks thinks that Vecebot could have been released ahead of that date, with a view toward shutting down sites that would have been likely to celebrate his return to freedom.
The blogger was kept in jail on new charges and the opposition sites might have complained were knocked out.
It is perhaps ironic that the forces of law and order seem content to use the archetypal symbols of anarchy, the hackers, to prop up their authoritarian rule.