Filipino hackers wage cyberwar on Chinese Web sites

Image placed by Anonymous Philippines hackers on a Chinese government website.
Image placed by Anonymous Philippines hackers on a Chinese government website.

Attention this week has centered on the covert cyberwar taking place between the United States and China. Chinese authorities pointed to the supposed hypocrisy of Washington leveling cyberspying charges against China, even while the United States maintains its own vast network of clandestine surveillance and monitoring.

There are myriad other stealth attacks launched from the dark ravines and hideaways of the Internet that governments have to monitor and protect against. And the Chinese aren't just facing the United States.

On Tuesday, the Philippine branch of the hacker collective Anonymous announced on its Facebook page that it had hacked and defaced nearly 200 Chinese government sites. The full list of sites is available in the embedded post below.

The raid on the Chinese state Web sites comes amid heightened tensions between Beijing and Manila. The two countries have locked horns in a heated maritime territorial dispute over islands in the South China Sea, initially provoked, Philippine authorities argue, by illegal Chinese poaching of endangered species in islands not far from the archipelago nation's coast.

Those provocations have escalated into dangerous standoffs between Chinese and Philippine naval vessels. Fear over China's increasingly expansionist behavior spurred the government in Manila to tie up a new security deal with Washington last month.

The Anonymous hackers from the Philippines are clearly riled up by this state of events. "China’s alleged claim on maritime territories and oppressive poaching can no longer be tolerated,” read one message posted on a hacked Chinese Web site. Previously, though, Anonymous Philippines targeted Web sites of its own country's government, following the passage of a controversial cybercrime law.

The Philippines has a considerable pool of Internet-savvy people, some of whom end up dabbling in the Web's dark arts. Recently, with the aid of Interpol, Philippine authorities arrested dozens in the country involved in global "sextortion" syndicates that would trick gullible netizens around the world into exposing themselves in lewd ways online and then blackmail them. They claimed more than 530 victims in the Chinese special administrative region of Hong Kong alone.

Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.
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