By Li Xiaohua and Wang Wei
Over the past month domestic and overseas Chinese rallying to oppose "Tibetan independence" and protest against western media bias have made extensive use of Chinese community forums on the Internet to organize their worldwide activities; the Internet has now become a key battlefield as "Tibet independence" activists and other overseas organizations attempt to disrupt Chinese websites.
China "Red Heart" website hacked
On April 19, technical staff at 5sai.com - the site that launched the China Red Heart movement in which 7 million Chinese MSN users added a patriotic red heart to their usernames - discovered a "Tibet independence" "snow lion flag" had been posted on their front page. Simultaneously, millions of data packets were launched at the site in a "denial of service" attack. Many users were unable to log in.
5sai.com manager Chen Huaiyuan said the timing of the attack was very interesting; it came just two days after the launch of the China Red Heart movement and one day after the CNN sports page was hacked. "The attacking IP addresses we were able to identify were mainly European." said Chen.
The site Anti-cnn.com was closed down for over a day by another denial of service attack. Chinese Internet users suspect pro-Tibet activists were also behind this attack.
Overseas Chinese websites attacked
The hackers targeted overseas Chinese sites as well as mainland sites. On April, 11 Chinese students in Australia posted calls for a mobilization in support of the Canberra torch relay on sunnyoz.com. On April 15, sunnyoz.com was attacked. Data recorded by the site's firewall indicated the attack came from Germany and Spain.
Since the rally in support of the torch relay on April 24, a number of other Chinese websites including ozchinese and AOBO have also been attacked.
Netizens defend their forums
"We suspect pro-'Tibet independence' activists are behind these attacks. We desperately need help!" said a message posted on a Chinese mainland website by a Chinese student in Sydney a few days ago.
To welcome the Olympic torch relay's Nagano leg on April 26, Chinese students in Japan used the famous Xiaochun Study Abroad Forum (xiaochuncnjp.com) to plan a rally. The forum was subsequently hacked by 'Tibetan independence' elements and local right-wing groups. According to a Chinese student in Tokyo, the Xiaochun Forum was attacked on a daily basis in the run up to the torch relay. The attacks became so intense that netizens lost contact with each other and some of their plans were disrupted.
China fights back against Olympic hackers
With the 100-day countdown to the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games fast approaching, the hidden danger of hacking is becoming a hot topic of Olympic security. The large-scale use of the Internet in the organization of the Olympics has provided a tempting target for hackers. Past experience shows that some will seek notoriety by trying to disrupt the Games. And the present international situation means the Beijing Games are going to be a particular target.
"Hackers and viruses have been an increasing threat to the Olympics since the Sydney Games," said a security expert speaking to the International Herald Leader. "The scale of the Beijing Olympic Games is far greater than any previous ones, no matter whether you measure it by coverage or the number of computers. This might provide opportunities for hackers."
However, organizers are prepared. On April 1, China's first Urban Information Security Emergency Response and Disposal Center was established in Beijing. It will keep a round the clock eye on network security. In case of an attack, counter measures will be immediately implemented. But defending the systems is a huge challenge. So called "Trojan Horse" software is one of the main threats. According to statistics supplied by the National Computer Network Emergency Response Team, there were about 1 million computers infected with Trojans last year.
"We expect 200 million alerts during the Beijing Olympic Games. Of course, not all alerts are threats. Our Intelligent Monitoring System will identify genuine threats, alert us and then deal with them." said Jiang Sheng, Technical Manager of the Olympic Integrated Information System.
To ensure information and network security during the Olympics, the Ministry of Public Security Public Information Network Security Supervision Bureau began a one-month investigation into national information network security and computer viruses on April 26. During this period, public security organs will visit local websites to clean up malicious viruses and Trojans.
(China.org.cn April 30, 2008)