UP, ICTO call for end to cyber attacks, but Pinoy hacktivists on a hacking spree

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on Tuesday, April 24 according to Pinoy hacking group PrivateX.

MANILA, Philippines — The government and the academe have banded together to call for the end of cyber attacks between China and the Philippines as these are “unproductive counter-actions” and are unsanctioned by the administration.

Despite such calls, Pinoy hacktivist groups continued their hacking activities into Chinese websites, even claiming the takedown of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website through a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack

In separate statements issued on Tuesday, the University of the Philippines (UP)–whose site was allegedly defaced by Chinese hackers on Friday — and the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) said the attacks must stop since they do little to help alleviate the tension in Scarborough Shoal, one of the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea.

“Hacking selected websites at the suspected country of the hacker or hackers does not objectively articulate any political issue and only subjectively fulfills a personal desire to ‘get even’,” said UP President Alfredo Pascual.

ICTO Executive Director Louis Casambre, meanwhile, said he understood the sentiments of the local hacker community regarding the issue, but stressed that the government will not condone such actions.

“This will not benefit anyone and could lead to bigger problems in the future for both countries concerned,” Casambre added.

In just a span of four days, several Philippine government websites were either defaced or attacked by hackers reportedly coming from China. On Monday, Malacanang admitted that they have come under a DDOS attack from servers whose IP addresses were reportedly based in China.

This happened almost the same time the Department of Foreign Affairs released a statement with regard to what could be considered as an ongoing cyber spats between the two countries.

“We denounce such cyber attacks regardless of who engages in them. They are counterproductive and only add to the tension. We call on the netizens of both countries to act more responsibly,” said DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez.

Counter-strike

Such attacks on Philippine-based Websites have caused local hacktivist groups, namely PrivateX and Anonymous #OccupyPhilippines, to launch retaliation attacks against several Chinese websites in a hacking operation they dubbed as #OpChinaDown.

In one of the newly defaced websites, the hackers belonging to the PrivateX group stressed how their attacks were merely responses to the initial breach on the UP website last week.

“We are not trying to start anything. We are just trying to tell you that we do not want to be bullied in our own cyberspace too,” the group’s message read.

Still, the group said their operation against Chinese websites are not a threat to China but merely responses “to future attacks within our cyberspace,” adding that they are leaving the resolution of the territorial dispute to the government’s hands.

On Tuesday afternoon, some Facebook users have reported that the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) website has gone down in an apparent DDoS attack, although a cursory check has revealed that the site is now back up.

According to one employee of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), their website has come down with a DDOS attack on Tuesday but the problem seems to have been resolved already.

“Namomonitor namin na maraming chinese IP na nagaattempt to upload shells,” the PIA employee said.

The ICTO said breaches into government websites reveal their patent vulnerabilities as well as the need for more stringent cybersecurity standards in the Philippines.

“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 added.

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