The shadowy organization called Anonymous, an informal collection of computer hackers who describe themselves as "hacktivists", have taken aim at the People's Republic of China. Early in April 2012 they attacked and defaced several hundred Chinese government web sites. In quite a few instances information was stolen as well - email addresses, passwords and phone numbers. A list of all 485 Chinese sites they successfully defaced was posted on PasteBin under one of their favourite bylines, GlobalRevolution.
Anonymous posted a separate message on PasteBin explaining the motive behind these attacks; the exact, unedited English-language text is shown in the box on the right.
While these latest attacks appear to represent a new direction for Anonymous, on closer inspection the offensive against China is consistent with the principles that the group has always tried to espouse. They don't attack web sites or organizations for fun or money or to prove their technical prowess (which nobody doubts), but rather when a specific issue arouses their anger. In the past they've launched attacks against the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the USA, white supremacists such as radio talk show host Hal Turner, internet sexual predators, censorship, alleged rigging of votes in the 2009 Iranian presidential elections and various organizations trying to enforce copyright laws.
So there is generally a moral theme to the "work" that Anonymous does, and the attacks against China are no different. The Chinese government is a repressive Communist regime that enforces severe restrictions on personal freedom and human rights; democracy and free speech do not exist. China continues to occupy Tibet, despite Tibet having been a separate, independent country until it was invaded in 1951 (see my blog about China and Tibet). Access to the internet is subject to severe government-controlled restrictions, Western news is censored and social media web sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are blocked.
The latest attacks seem to have come from a new Chinese branch of Anonymous, identified simply as "@AnonymousChina" on Twitter. I wonder if this is the start of a concerted, long-term campaign to put pressure on the Chinese government to introduce more reforms? A noble aim, and one I support whole-heartedly, but which is unfortunately not likely to succeed - Communism is so entrenched in China, and has been for so long, that it will take a lot more than this to bring it to an end. But every little bit helps, and these cyber attacks may ultimately be part of the collective push that eventually brings about major change in China ...