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From the July 2001 issue of World
Press Review (VOL. 48, No. 7).
Cyber Patriots Wage War
Zhou Derong, Frankfurter Allgemeine
Frankfurt, Germany, April
may be ignoring the smell of gunpowder in the air, but the Sino-American
war is well underway. While Americas top diplomat Peter Verga
was still haggling with his Chinese counterpart at the negotiating
table in Beijing over sorry or very sorry,
the first battle had already been foughta virtual battle, fought
digitally on the World Wide Web.
new face of battle
The first cyber-shot fell three days after the incident in the sky,
immediately after President George W. Bush uttered what the Chinese
perceived as a barbaric imperialist threat, saying that
instead of an apology for the [April 1] midair collision [between
a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese fighter plane], he was planning to
withdraw American diplomats and cancel his trip to China scheduled
for October if Beijing didn't return the plane and its crew to America
soon. For China, this was a slap in the face. But for the wangmin,
Chinas Internet surfers, it was a declaration of war.
You Americans want war? runs their aggressive on-line
slogan: We'll give you war.
On the evening of April 3, furious Chinese cyber-patriots attacked
selected American Web sites, including two that belong to the U.S.
Navy. On one of these sites, www.iplexmarin.com,
the attackers left a message in English and Chinese saying, As
Chinese citizens we love our fatherland and the Chinese people.
In this case, we stands for the so-called Hacker
Union of China founded by a hacker by the name of Lion: We
are deeply outraged over this imperialist aggression. Fatherland,
we are prepared to give our all for you. Even our lives if necessary.
This last promise may only be meant in virtual terms, for in real
life, Chinese hackers are usually spoiled only children, successful
yuppies in Chinas New Economy. Chinese cyber-patriots can look
back on only a short history, as China didnt gain access to
the Internet until 1992. But in this brief period, the countrys
surfers have been highly active. In particular, they have probably
done more for the reawakening of Chinese self-confidence than the
Communist Party did in 50 years.
core of the Internet community consists of hackers, mostly from Taiwan.
In the mid-1990s, a Taiwanese hacker called Coolfire published
a thrilling, entertaining eight-part introduction on-line that became
essential reading for all subsequent Chinese hackers. Such well-known
Chinese Internet idols as Frankie, Yuange, Netcc, or Glacier all learned
the basics from Coolfire. The development of their thinking is similar
to that of the intellectuals in the 1980s: Having initially taken
everything from the West at face value, they later became so disillusioned
that they abandoned their own notorious brand of nihilism and became
Americans want war? We'll give you war."
In 1998, when the persecution and killings inflicted on Indonesias
Chinese population drew no response from Beijing, hackers made their
first organized appearance, attacking Indonesian Web sites. The campaign
was such a success that hackers who took part were later celebrated
on-line as national heroes. Four renowned hackers then founded the
now legendary Green Brigade, which devotes itself to problems
of Internet security in peacetime but which may wish to act as a spearhead
force in times of war.
On the evening of April 3, the Green Brigade attacked Americaa
move promptly followed the next day by a counterattack. American hackers
summoned and organized by a group called Poizonbox took part in operation
Chinakiller, attacking at least 100 Chinese Web sites.
The individual strikes are listed on the German site defaced.alldas.de,
where the score currently stands at nearly 500 victims. Unlike the
Chinese, who leave patriotic messages on the American Web sites, the
Americans simply write, This site now belongs to Poizonbox.
The Chinese hackers are all anonymous, operating underground, while
their opponents leave signatures including a link to an information
site for hackers, the Security
News Portal. The FBI, too, keeps an interested eye on this
digital piracyand says nothing. This in turn further encourages
the Chinese, who started the conflict in the first place. As one overzealous
hacker blurted out prematurely to the annoyance of his fellow fighters,
the cyber-warriors have planned a general attack for the first week
of May, beginning on International Labor Day. The major offensive
is scheduled for May 4also the day of celebrations for the Chinese