Information Warfare: Tibetan Rebels Hack Back


August 16, 2014: Tibetan exiles have been fighting Chinese Cyber War attacks for nearly a decade. The latest battle has been in twitter, where the Tibetans found that Chinese hackers created over a hundred twitter accounts using the names of Westerners and then sending out thousands of tweets supporting Chinese rule in Tibet and criticizing the Dali Lama, the Tibetan religious leader who opposes Chinese occupation of Tibet and is quite a celebrity in the West.

Operations like this have made Tibetan exiles more determined to defend themselves from the Chinese attacks because now they have learned how to detect when they are being hacked and by who. The attackers are usually Chinese, who frequently try to cause dissention between the Tibetan exiles and India. China has long accused India of supporting the separatists in Tibet. India has hosted Tibetan refugees since the first ones came across in the early 1950s, after China invaded and reconquered Tibet (which had been independent since 1914). India has never really supported Tibetan exiles against China until recently when China became more vocal about claims on Indian territory. 

Among the more frequently attacked Tibetan exiles are those running the CTA (Central Tibetan Administration, formerly the Tibetan government in exile) in India. The CTA has long worked to regain Tibetan independence. The CTA is headquartered in an Indian hill town (Dharamsala) near the Tibetan border. This is the home base of the Dali Lama and widely considered the most hacked (mainly by the Chinese) place on the planet. Since the Chinese hacking activity became more known and understood the CTA staff and supporters are now diligently learning how to neutralize or avoid the Chinese hacking.

The Chinese hacking efforts against the CTA became more intense starting in 2012 and CTA were eventually able to identify the Chinese connection with the help of sympathetic hackers in the West (many of them fellow Buddhists and admirers of the Dali Lama). Western Internet security researchers found identical bits of code (the human readable text that programmers create and then turn into smaller binary code for computers to use) and similar techniques for using it in hacking software used against Tibetan independence groups and commercial software sold by some firms in China and known to work for the Chinese military. Similar patterns have been found in hacker code left behind during attacks on American military and corporate networks. The best hackers hide their tracks better than this. The Chinese consider the CTA a major threat to their unpopular rule in Tibet and have been reading CTA email and documents for years. Not so much anymore and that annoys the Chinese a great deal.






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