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Cyber War on Scarborough Shoal

Written By Jane Miranda on Thursday, April 26, 2012 | Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Scarborough Shoal standoff goes online. Responding to the defacement of the University of the Philippines (UP) website on Friday, a group of Philippine-based hackers has defaced a Chinese university website on Saturday as tension between China and the Philippines continue to escalate.

Anonymous #OccupyPhilippines replaced the main page of the Chinese University Media Union (http://star.chinaumu.org) with a defaced website that declared “Scarborough Shoal is ours!” as loud, screaming music play in the background.

Chinese University Media Union (star.chinaumu.org; IP: 58.68.134.164) website as of 10:00 A.M., April 22, 2012.

“STFU. Chinese government is clearly retarded,” a note on the China UMU page said, just above the ASCII image rendition of the popular Guy Fawkes mask, which has been used as a symbol by international hacking group Anonymous.

The group has been involved in similar attacks before, including Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDOS) attacks leveled against the websites of the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation following protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill in the US in January.

DDoS is a form of cyber attack used by hacking groups to take down particular websites, which involves overwhelming the website’s server by executing external commands from a number of terminals, subsequently crippling the server indefinitely.

Other Chinese web properties that were broken into, the report said, include the websites of China Youth Online (http://v.cyol.com), P. Loft Youth Hostel (http://www.ploft.cn) and the Chinese government website http://gh.rc.gov.cn.

Chinese Government Website (gh.rc.gov.cn) website as of 10:00 A.M., April 22, 2012.

On April 20, the UP website (http://www.upd.edu.ph) displayed a photo of China’s territorial claim over the Spratly Islands with a statement that reads: “We come from China! Huangyan Island is Ours!”

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Monday (April 23, 2012) said that at 4 p.m. +8 GMT on Sunday, the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) "noticed a significant spike in traffic with malicious URL requests from forged user-agents being channeled to the Official Gazette website (www.gov.ph ), PCDSPO (www.pcdspo.gov.ph ) and to the Presidential Museum and Library website (www.malacanang.gov.ph )."

Lacierda said the spike in traffic from these "forged user-agents'' caused the Palace websites' servers to "momentarily lag.''

"We determined that this was a denial-of-service attack," Lacierda said. "Information gathered through our data analysis indicated that the attack originated from IP addresses assigned to Chinese networks.''
A denial-of-service attack (DoS attack) or distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS attack) is an attempt to make a computer or network resource unavailable to its intended users. Although the means to carry out, motives for, and targets of a DoS attack may vary, it generally consists of the concerted efforts of a person, or multiple people to prevent an Internet site or service from functioning efficiently or at all, temporarily or indefinitely.

Chinese perpetrators of DoS attacks typically target sites or services hosted on high-profile web servers of the country as revenge after Filipino hackers defaced several china's websites. 

One common method of attack involves saturating the target machine with external communications requests, such that it cannot respond to legitimate traffic, or responds so slowly as to be rendered effectively unavailable. Such attacks usually lead to a server overload. In general terms, DoS attacks are implemented by either forcing the targeted computer(s) to reset, or consuming its resources so that it can no longer provide its intended service or obstructing the communication media between the intended users and the victim so that they can no longer communicate adequately.

Lacierda said the PCDSPO would maintain its websites, but added that "we can expect temporary disruption of service while the attack is [going on].''

The Philippines and China remain deadlocked at Panatag Shoal, with their maritime vessels refusing to budge in a standoff now on its 14th day.


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