Threat Research Blog

Silencing Dissent via Cyber Suppression

Today, our Labs team released a blog called 'Operation Poisoned Handover: Unveiling Ties Between APT Activity in Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Movement.’ Clearly, the Chinese government has identified social media and uncontrolled information as a major threat. The linkage between probable Chinese hackers responsible for a number of Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) attacks around intellectual property theft and the ongoing Distributed Denial of Service attacks against the Pro Democracy movement in Hong Kong makes sense. The Chinese government is utilizing their deep hacking expertise garnered to shut down any online systems hosting information pertaining to and supporting the Pro-Democracy Movement in Hong Kong. All the while, they continue to shut down Social Media via the Great FireWall of China and thereby limit access to information on the Internet.

Unrestricted access to social media can allow the for the instantaneous spread of information, new concepts, and most importantly, unrest. Most notably, the Arab Spring, which began on December 18th and quickly spread via social media causing protests and uprisings that reverberated around the region. By the end of 2013, numerous rulers had been forced from power in the Middle East. It was a powerful tool for protesters to use to organize and publicly let the world know what their government was doing to silence them.

Most governments typically don’t like widespread dissent. It makes running a country more difficult when a significant percentage of the population isn’t happy with specific policies or practices that make the current ruling party look bad to the rest of the world. In a free and open society dissent is much more accepted and practiced openly and usually receives a lot of press and the government has no choice but to accept it. In a closed society where dissent is either not allowed or closely controlled, the media is the enemy during a protest since the government does not want the world to see any unrest and they don’t want it known across their country lest the trouble spread. This is why the general population has limited access to online information except for what the government wants them to see.   And with the DDoS revelations today, we see how governments not just block access but go a step further to keep the status quo in place.