Gov’t urges calm amid Scarborough-related hack attacks
MANILA, Philippines—The government has warned Filipino techies against defacing Chinese websites amid tensions over the disputed Scarborough Shoal off the coast of Zambales, which both Manila and Beijing are claiming as their own.
In a statement, the Department of Science and Technology’s Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) said trading barbs online would not help in the government’s efforts to ease tensions with China peacefully.
“We understand the concern of our local hacker community on this issue, however, exchanges such as this one would not benefit anyone and could lead to bigger problems in the future for both countries concerned and could escalate the already tense situation in Panatag Shoal,” ICTO Executive Director Louis Casambre said.
Over the weekend, Philippine websites have been defaced by Chinese nationals, and vice versa, as “netizens” took the quarrel between both countries online.
“The recent alleged defacement of foreign websites by local hacker groups is not condoned nor encouraged by the Philippine Government,” Casambre said.
The University of the Philippines website was allegedly defaced by Chinese nationals sympathetic to China’s claims on what is known internationally as Scarborough Shoal. The website of the Palace Communications Group was also reported subjected to a “distributed denial of service” (DDOS) attack.
Philippine hackers supposedly retaliated defacing several Chinese websites.
Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo said online attacks by both countries against each other would only serve to flare tempers on either side.
“These alleged hacking and counter-hacking activities are unsanctioned by either government and is basically a reflection of what citizens of either country feel about the situation. It is our job in government to seek diplomatic solutions to these issues and not let these things get out of hand,” he said.
ICTO’s Casambre said the government has been working hard to fend off further attacks, most of which have been traced to China.
He said attempts at DDOS attacks from overseas on the state’s “gov.ph” site were detected on Monday and promptly blocked by government tech administrators.
A DDOS attack aims to make a computer or network unavailable to its intended users. This is done usually by a group or by a single user in control of several devices looking to stop a particular Internet site or service from functioning properly.
This is done by flooding a server with more network traffic than it is able to handle. This prevents the server from carrying out its normal functions and in some cases crashes the server completely.
Last March, a report by Russian Internet security firm Kaspersky Labs showed that the Philippines ranked 13th on the list of 23 countries where “distributed denial of service” or DDOS attacks originated in 2011.
The Philippines was one of four Southeast Asian countries to make the list, the two others being Malaysia at 5th, Indonesia at 18th and Vietnam at 19th. Over 90 percent of all DDOS attacks came from the 23 countries on the list.
As much as 2 percent of these came from the Philippines, Kaspersky Labs analysts Maria Garnaeva and Yury Namestnikov said.
Casambre said the hacking of the UP website demonstrates vulnerabilities of some government sites and the need for more stringent cyber security standards. “Along with the Cybercrime Bill that is currently undergoing bicameral review, the DOST-ICTO in cooperation with the Office of the President is at the final stages of developing an Executive Order creating a top level body which will spearhead government efforts on cybercrime and cybersecurity, and will strengthen the necessary coordination and implementation of uniform security standards in government,” Casambre said.