The citizenry is resorting to VPN and privacy-centric apps to beat the junta’s censorship and digital blackouts, according to one report.

The current turmoil in Myanmar has disrupted every aspect of life there, but the frequent shutdowns of internet access and military interference in freedom of digital activity among the 68-million population are of particular concern.

Consequently, the demand for virtual private networks and alternative methods of communication has skyrocketed there. New methods to overcome internet access issues are emerging daily, including the use of mesh network apps using Bluetooth.

Many citizens have been using the Tor browser to access the Dark Web to learn how to circumvent the internet blocks and restrictions imposed by the government.

According to threat intelligence firm IntSights, the official crackdowns have given rise to international hacktivist efforts to launch cyberwarfare operations on the military, including hacking and defacing the Myanmar government and Myanmar police force official websites.

Hackers have also exploited multiple vulnerabilities on public Myanmar websites and have attacked an endpoint to gather and leak financial records and information.

Historical chart of nightly internet and mobile network shutdowns in Myanmar

In its report on the country’s recent political and digital developments, the firm found the following trends:

  • The military junta will continue to has periodically order power shutdowns, intercept electronic communications without warrants, and force internet blackouts while also blocking and/or censoring the content of social media sites.
  • Facebook and Twitters are active domains for those speaking out, including hacker and hacktivist groups. While most activity posted by these groups appears to be low-level defacements, there are a few showing root access to victim systems.
  • End-to-end encrypted instant messaging application Telegram, and invitation-only audio chat application Clubhouse, are popular tools for private communication to avoid the authorities’ surveillance efforts.
  • Just like the protestors in Hong Kong, the Myanmar people seem poised to escalate the digital privacy battle in the approaching months.

The authorities have left hardwired internet access available to banks and large corporations, so that may be a lifeline for some …