Azeri site's scrutiny of Azerbaijan's Karabakh stance sparks cyber retaliation

Azeri site's scrutiny of Azerbaijan's Karabakh stance sparks cyber retaliation
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Leading Azerbaijani news outlet faces cyber onslaught amid heightened scrutiny of national policies.

Mikroskop, a prominent Azerbaijani news website, fell victim to a ransomware attack this past Saturday. The site displayed a message from the purported hackers, demanding a ransom of 0.5 bitcoin (approximately $13,000). As of Monday morning, access to the site remains blocked.

Fatima Karimova, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Mikroskop, communicated to OC Media her belief that a specific hacker group was responsible. She attributes the cyber intrusion to the outlet's investigative stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and other contentious issues within Azerbaijan. "Our critical reporting on the conflict has seemingly intensified these attacks this year," Karimova commented.

Javid Abdullayev, another pillar behind Mikroskop, disclosed that the team had been locked out of the website's backend by Saturday noon. Reflecting on the challenges and confrontations faced due to the website's recent reports on Karabakh, Abdullayev expressed suspicion of potential Azerbaijani government involvement in a Facebook post. "Given the continuous backlash for our content, the government naturally emerges as a prime suspect," Abdullayev observed.

Further, Abdullayev highlighted to Voice of America an evolving trend in cyber-attacks. While Azerbaijani independent news platforms have been targeted before, typically with the intent to delete archives, this marked a notable shift towards ransomware tactics. He clarified, "While our archive is still retrievable via specific links, our homepage and administrative dashboard remain compromised."