One of our commenters, “Anon”, has posted this interesting story about how Chinese nationalists mistakenly attacked an Algerian BBS during a campaign to boycott French products last year:
RE: The Algerian BBS: It was nothing really, not a hack or any major concerted trolling. During the time when France was Public Enemy #1 (it’s really becoming hilarious how, other than the top 1-3 eternal enemies spots, the other most-hated countries are pretty much a revolving door of offenders) I saw a post somewhere (I don’t know where, Global Times, Tianya?) where somebody posted a link to a “French” board and said “hey, let’s go tell these guys what we think.” I followed the link and found some angry and/or propagandizing posts from Chinese there (either in English or obvious machine translations to French, I don’t know), but it was pretty obvious that the forum was Algerian, even though I don’t speak French. I mean, I think the Algerian flag was prominently displayed! So it was pretty obvious that they just found a French language forum at random. Not any big thing.
It is a pretty hilarious story. I have plenty of sympathy for the Algerians, who would not have a clue what was going on.
However it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether this kind of trolling activity is in fact sanctioned by the Chinese Government. The same goes for hacking. Xinhua has just published a couple of news release to claim that the PRC government is worrying about the proliferation (and increasing popularity) of online hackers’ schools in China. Hackers are said to be responsible for 7.6 billion RMB economic loss in China last year. An incident of a hacker convicted for Internet crime has been highlighted in these Xinhua reports to demonstrate the PRC Government’s determination to curb the crime. The convicted hacker received one and a half years’ jail sentence for stealing over 7 million RMB from banks. If you ask me, I’ll say that the sentence is rather lenient for a country which is well known for imposing harsh penalty on those who commit even petty crime.
Xinhua’s issuing of the statements is probably an attempt to deflect international condemnation of the Chinese Government’s alleged involvement in a Civilian Cyber War Force called the “Red Hackers Alliance” (RHA). Here is a LINK to an article at the Strategy Page about this organisation. Earlier, researchers in Toronto also published damning evidence of Chinese government-operated cyber-espionage networks in action.
Meanwhile another more concrete piece of evidence has just emerged to link China’s Internet filtering initiative, or the Great Fire Wall of China, directly to a type of cyber-crime known as DNS (Domain Name System) hijacking. DNS hijacking involves converting legitimate domain names of websites into IP addresses of malicious websites using a rogue DNS server. So when a user of an infected computer visits a certain legitimate domain name, he is sent to a bogus website instead. An expatriate in Shanghai published a blog post a couple of weeks ago about how he accidentally discovered this criminal practice of the GFW. Since then, another blogger has also come forward to share his findings.
As I have advocated earlier, the most effective way for China to prove its innocence and to disassociate itself from any involvement in cyber-terrorism is to cooperate with the Australian Federal Police to apprehend (and possibly extradite) those who are involved in the hacking incident against MIFF. This will send a really strong message to hackers in China about their Government’s determination to crack down on illegal Internet activities. To no one’s surprise, this is not likely going to happen. I heard from reliable sources that the AFP is not able to secure cooperation from their Chinese counterparts. Under this country’s civil liberty legislation, the AFP only has limited authority to deal with such matter. So the case has been transferred to our military intelligent agencies instead. In short, the game is on.