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April 09, 2012

Chinese Government Sites Go Down; Anonymous says it's a Warning

By Nick Ruble, TMCnet Contributing Writer

International hacking group Anonymous may be to blame for a recent takedown of several Chinese government websites last week. Due to the group’s lack of order, it’s always hard to tell whether or not it’s actually the culprit – or if members are just making false claims as a kind of scare tactic.

It’s well known that Chinese government policies restrict access to many popular sites like Facebook, Twitter (News - Alert) and even certain Google services. Many find these restrictions to be immoral and unnecessary, which is precisely why Anonymous attempted to scare the nation’s government away from continuing to take such actions.

Messages appeared on a number of various sites with clear warnings to remove these restrictions, stating “Dear Chinese government, you are not infallible, today websites are hacked, tomorrow it will be your vile regime that will fall. What you are doing today to your Great People, tomorrow will be inflicted to you. With no mercy.”

There are a couple of strange things about the nature of the attacks, the first being that the messages were written in English as opposed to Chinese, and the second being Anonymous’s choice of sites to target. Rather than hacking big-time national government websites, the group chose to go with small-scale sites for local bureaus and municipal organizations. It’s possible that the larger sites were too tough to crack, but it could also be that the hackers involved are sending this one out as more of a “warning shot”, and plan to do some real damage if their demands aren’t met.

It seems like Anonymous is always making claims that, through hacking websites and databases of major organizations, it will completely shut down entire governments and corporations that it doesn’t agree with. In most cases however, the group doesn’t get much farther than it did in hacking these small Chinese sites. Sure, it’s annoying and unfortunate for the local administrations in those small towns, but what widespread damage did it really do?

Again though, due to the group’s lack of order, one can’t really classify it as completely ineffective in changing the outcome of some major issues – Anonymous is an unorganized group of programmers present in nearly every corner of the world. Some of its hackers are more competent than others, and some are nothing short of programming geniuses. Just look at its involvement in putting a stop to SOPA and ACTA – the group may very well have played a key role in putting a halt to the Internet censorship agreements.

It would be nice to see China lift some of its restrictions on Internet usage, but it doesn’t seem likely that an entire nation will run in fear just because a few minor websites were taken over for a day or two.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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