Anonymous Now Interested in the Great Firewall of China

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pierluigi Paganini

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(Translated from the original Italian)

The Chinese government is famous for the high level of monitoring implemented on the internet and specifically on all social media, a modern form of censorship and, a model that several countries all over the world are replicating.  

Nothing has changed regarding government plans to continue censoring social networking sites according the declarations of the Communist Party and State Council regarding China’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) on cultural reform and development.

The outlook is very bleak, and they are violating human rights as censorship is being used also for the purpose of persecuting opponents of the government. "Violated Freedom" is an emerging cyber threat, as I wrote in an article some months ago.

What is of particular concern is that in those countries where the level of monitoring / censorship is high, we also observe an high degree of corruption. Corruption and censorship are like sisters who walk hand in hand in spite of their impact human rights.

The Chinese government will continue to increase regulation of domestic social networks and other social media platforms, and will also implement more restrictive measures regarding private information online by improving the country's cyber security.

Obviously, such an oppressive policy is to the center of a heated debate, and it is inevitable that groups like Anonymous may be interested in conducting an intervention against the Chinese government

This is the genesis of the OpChina campaign. An Anonymous-aligned hacker group called RevolutionSec attacked Chinese government websites on Wednesday February 15th, then posted stolen data online.

The group has claimed to have successfully breached a Chinese government trade site. Following the fashion of the moment, the information was published on Pastebin and via Twitter  with the message  "Bring down the great firewall of China". 

More over 8,000 government accounts have been compromised, exposing usernames and encrypted passwords.

Should we be assisting the call to arms by the several groups linked to Anonymous?

According to experts, the group is determined to hack the "Great Firewall", a term that refers to the policy of Internet monitoring by the Beijing government dubbed The Golden Shield.

Thanks to this systems the Chinese authorities have established they are able to block access to a number of websites accused of being opponents of the regime.

The Chinese government itself on more than one occasion has been accused of having sponsored attacks against foreign industries and governments with the dual intention of offending the cyber adversaries and stealing sensitive information of varying utility.

While I understand the choice to attacking what is the symbol par excellence of censorship - The Great Firewall - I am surprised that this would only finally happen now. Why has not happened before? Why has Anonymous not targeted the Great Firewall before?

I will illustrate some cases hoping that you can give me your point of view on the subject.

The escalation of Anonymous' operations has increased awareness of their potential impact, and it may have provided the confidence that will allow the group to engage more challenging objectives.

To this we we can add that the targets hit and the time line of the attacks has certainly provided great visibility to the group and emboldened the consensus needed to encourage the involvement of a critical mass to involve attacks.

Another hypothesis is that the group may have been directed against the Chinese as part of a cyber strategy defined by Western governments. This hypothesis possible if one accepts that the structure of Anonymous may have been infiltrated to some degree.

A third hypothesis is very plausible: Let's imagine that someone is using the name Anonymous to conduct undercover operations to attack hostile governments like that of Beijing.

Professing itself as members of Anonymous would generate a lot of publicity and incite a critical mass to engage in the cyber attacks. These operations may also be used as diversions for further operations of western intelligence in the cyber space.

The mystery is intriguing, but I believe that in the coming months we will have a clearer picture of the situation.

Cross-posted from Security Affairs

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