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Cyber Attack on Women's Health

Portside readers may have noticed that our website has been intermittently off line for the past week. May First/People Link, which hosts Portside also hosts several pro-choice sites and those sites have been subjected to a massive attack. Women's health/pro-choice sites have been under ruthless, relentless attack for decades and the cyber front of those attacks has now expanded significantly.

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Statements from May First/People Link

July 31, 2015

Using a Denial of Service assault, attackers crippled servers at May First/People Link hosting the websites of several pro-choice organizations Thursday, July 30.

The target was Fund Abortion Now (http://fundabortionnow.org/), the website of the National Network of Abortion Funds, a national network of pro-choice foundations and organizations and a May First/People Link member.

The attack, which appears to be part of a coordinated, national attack on pro-choice sites (including Planned Parenthood) started in the early morning hours of July 30 and continued for several hours after that.

May First technologists resolved the issue by routing the website traffic through Deflect (https://www.deflect.ca/), a free and open source-based service that assists websites that are under Denial of
Service attacks. Deflect reroutes the website traffic through its own specially designed distributed network of servers that can filter out attacks like these before routing it back to May First/People Link. After that move, the website came up and is now functional.

Planned Parenthood, the target of a recent smear campaign by right-wing propagandists, suffered two on-line attacks this week: one involved theft of data from the organization's databases and the other was a Denial of Service attack that brought the organization's site down on Wednesday. Planned Parenthood's site, although recovered, remains off-line today.

"This bullying behavior is part of a broad and consistent pattern by anti-abortion zealots who want to interfere with personal decision-making," a statement from the National Network of Abortion Funds said. "Instead of spending our time fighting off anti-abortion harassment, we would prefer to be working towards more affordable reproductive health care, great economic security and the ability of people to support and protect their families."

"For us, this is a matter of human rights and reproductive justice,” said Dr. Jackie Smith, a member of May First/People Link's Leadership Committee and Coordinator of the International Network of Scholar/Activists. "These attacks on groups that are working to ensure that all women have access to comprehensive reproductive health care deny women their rights as equal members of our society. These are not only sexist acts, but they also discriminate based on class and race.”

"Our stance in protection of reproductive rights informs our advocacy on the rights of women to access and use technology safely and without fear of harassment; to be represented fully in the ranks of those who control this technology; and to use communications technology to facilitate a discussion about the important issues about and facing women. Clearly the people who attacked these websites seek to curtail not only those rights but the discussion of those issues and the use of the Internet to have that discussion. We, as an organization, won't let them."

May First/People Link is a membership organization specializing in Internet work with members world-wide, primiarily in the United States and Mexico.

August 7, 2015

Attackers renewed their assault on May First/People Link operations Friday morning crippling some services and once again bringing down the organization's website.

May First technologists managed to restore most services although certain pro-choice websites and the May First website itself remain unreachable. Email service for the @mayfirst.org domain name has also been crippled -- the majority of members (whose email uses a domain other than mayfirst.org) are not affected.

May First has been under Denial of Service attack for over a week with the initial attack targeting specifically http://fundabortionnow.org the website of May First member the National Network of Abortion Funds last week. That attack appears to have been part of the campaign aimed at the pro-choice movement which included the attacks last week on Planned Parenthood and various pro-choice websites. The organization's Domain Name Service was also attacked, resulting in about an hour of intermittent service for all May First/People Link members.

The attacks today are a continuation of the attacks targeting May First/People Link's website specifically which began last Monday.

"Clearly, these opponents of reproductive rights are trying to bully our organization into capitulating on this issue or punishing us for supporting a woman's right to choose," according to Alfredo Lopez, member of May First's Leadership Committee. "They won't succeed. We exist as the progressive movement's Internet organization in this country and Mexico. We feel privileged to play that role and will continue playing it. We aren't going anywhere."

Technologists continue working to return the website and the mayfirst.org domain email to service. No other services are affected at this time.

May First/People Link is a political progressive membership organization specializing in Internet work and the sharing of services with most members in the United States and Mexico. It is the largest organization of its kind in either country.