CHINA’S CYBER WARRIORS TRANSCRIPT

The pollution's a lot better today but you can't really tell from one day to the next. With the Games almost upon them, there's a sense of growing national pride in Beijing at the moment. Despite the criticism and controversy from outside, the vast bulk of Chinese are clearly up for the Games. But at the same time, there's something very odd going on here. While the country's prising open its doors to the West, a part of this brewing nationalism is virulently anti-Western. Here's Nick Lazaredes.

REPORTER: Nick Lazaredes

Within days of the Tibetan riots in March this year, the Internet was flooded with pro-Chinese videos like these. But these home-made propaganda videos revealed only the tip of nationalist sentiments. A massive hidden army of young Chinese patriots is already waging a cyber-war, unbeknownst to the West.

WANG TUO, STUDENT (Translation): Hundreds of millions of Chinese use the Internet, they can contribute to their country as Internet users or as hackers.

Patriotic computer hacking is on the rise.

TIM BENNETT, CYBER SECURITY EXPERT: It is becoming the new weapon of warfare. Low-cost, high-speed, and the scope of an attack is much greater than a traditional military attack.

Beijing is on the eve of Olympic glory and tens of thousands of proud student volunteers are on the streets to help out visitors.

HUANG YONG, TRANSLATOR : This is the wall of smiles. We've posted the smiling pictures that we have collected from people who pass here because we consider smiles a kind of blessing to the Olympics.

For the volunteers at this kiosk, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve the motherland at a major turning point for China, a nation with a proud history.

MAN (Translation): In ancient times, China was already a civilised country, one of the great powers. I believe that soon it will be a powerful country again.


China's overwhelming Olympic pride is most evident among the so-called generation Y – the almost 250 million people born during the 1980s, like 21-year-old nationalist student Wang Tuo.

WANG TUO, (Translation): I think, because we are from the younger generation, we should take responsibility when our country needs us.

Wang Tuo and his friends spend much of their free time playing patriotic video games like this one called Kill the Little Japanese. This generation are angry about China's treatment by the West and attempts to interfere in issues like Tibet.

WANG TUO, (Translation): Tibetan independence should not be linked with the Olympics, they are separate matters. Politics is politics and the Tibet issue is due to cultural differences which have led to separatism and dissent.

The March riots in the Tibetan capital brought an unforgiving response from the government, with the death toll estimated at around 100. Barred from entering Tibet, Western media reported what it could from afar. But as Western condemnation flowed, the reaction from many Chinese was swift and quite extraordinary. Home-made videos and the power of the Internet spread their rage at lightning speed throughout China and around the globe.
While many citizens relish the opportunity to lash out at what they see as a Western culture of China-bashing, others are taking on the moral defence of their motherland by targeting the Western media.

RAO JIN (Translation): They report selectively and think that they are superior. It’s white supremacy.

Just 24 years old, Rao Jin already runs his own media company and a popular Chinese website with a distinctly patriotic flavour. Its aim is to expose what he says is a culture of lies and bias in the Western media, including the constant criticism of China's human rights record.

RAO JIN (Translation): When the Western media and Western politicians criticised these Olympics and even created difficulties for the torch relay, these actions inevitably inflamed the patriotism of the Chinese people.

Provocatively, the young entrepreneur has called his website Anti-CNN and, according to Rao Jin, CNN itself is one of the worst offenders. He claims they were caught red-handed using doctored photographs during their coverage of the Tibetan riots.

RAO JIN (Translation): This is the original photo and this one has been edited by CNN. Both the headline and the photo could lead people to think protesters were dispersed by army vehicles, but in fact they cut out this part where the rioters are throwing stones at the vehicles.

And, according to Rao Jin, the problem isn't confined to CNN. With China under a constant barrage of criticism from the Western media during the Olympic build-up, Anti-CNN has been fighting back.

RAO JIN (Translation): This is Fox News, These are Indian policemen arresting protesters but they are saying it is the Chinese army. This is obvious, and the BBC used this image of an ambulance as evidence of a large influx of troops.

Right or wrong, Rao Jin's claims struck a chord in China, despite their own media's selective reporting and the government's mind-boggling steps to control the Internet. Western experts have dubbed it "the Great Firewall" but in China it's known by its evocative official title - the Golden Shield Project - an estimated 30,000 people working to block websites deemed unfit for Chinese viewing. But that doesn't bother young students like Wang Tuo.

WANG TUO (Translation): There are younger people who have started using the Internet and they could be influenced by bad ideas, what can I say.... There could be serious consequences and I think the inappropriate websites should be banned.

But China's firewall technology has an even more sinister edge. Using key-word recognition software, officials are constantly monitoring for Internet usage deemed suspicious. It's a handy Big Brother tool to control dissidents and eager young nationalists alike. But the government was happy to give free rein to national rage, at least for a while.
It was the Olympic torch relay's French leg, with repeated attempts to douse the flame, which triggered China's nationalist Internet rage. Matters worsened when the French President hinted at boycotting the Games opening ceremony. For the Chinese, it was seen as a collective slap in the face.

SUN FA, BIOLOGIST (Translation): It was as if our mothers were being insulted, we reacted, that’s normal. Is that nationalism? The younger generation has it’s own way of expressing itself.

The actions of young Beijing biologist Sun Fa were typical of the sense of national outrage. Using Internet blogs and chat rooms, he called for a China-wide boycott of the huge French retailer Carrefour. Overnight he had a massive response.

SUN FA (Translation): Several thousand people said online that they would participate, there could be up to 25 or 26 groups and if there are 100 people in each, that makes over 200 people.

But nationalism can often prove to be a double-edged sword, as the Chinese Government is acutely aware. While it often fuels nationalist passions, its high-tech surveillance allows it to constantly monitor patriotic activists. There's nothing the government fears more than losing control of a situation and, with the Carrefour protest escalating, officials moved quickly to stop it.

SUN FA (Translation): I was questioned by the authorities regarding what we intended by our activities, how it was organised, how many were involved and so on. At the time I agreed I should obtain permission for such activities, they suggested we should not engage in such activities because of the Olympics, many unknown people could use such public activity to initiate other movements for ulterior motives.

These home-grown protests are significant enough but what's causing deep alarm for Western security experts are an estimated 300,000 Chinese hackers and computer warriors ready to ready to wage a cyber-war.

YAN ZHAO (Translation): CNN and Carrefour called it a Tibetan independence incident, it is a partition of our country, a threat to our national unity. This outraged many cyber citizens and Chinese people. So hackers and computer fans joined in to uncover the truth via the internet by using the technology to exert some pressure on the Western media.

This 22-year-old computer whiz kid is one of China's prolific new breed of hackers. Known by his hacker pseudonym of Yan Zhao, he offered Dateline a revealing glimpse into the secret world of Chinese hackers.

YAN ZHAO (Translation): A Webshell is like this, this is a Webshell, you can log in and see some servers.

Yan Zhao was just one of several hundred Chinese hackers who launched an assault on the websites of CNN and Carrefour using a relatively simple technique of gaining entry through the system's weakest point known as the Webshell.


YAN ZHAO (Translation): On the servers you can check user accounts, make changes and delete them. You can also use Webshell to get additional authorisation on the servers. Commonly, you can use the old bugs in remote management software such as FTP or PC anywhere, to gain authorisation.

The result was CNN's online news replaced with web pages like this. Yan Zhao says hackers almost always work alone but nearly all of them belong to one of the hundreds of different online hacker collectives in China.

YAN ZHAO (Translation): Some exceptionally skilful hackers were involved in the cyber war between China and the US, they spend most of their time on the Internet. A few hackers and hacker groups such as Hacker Union and Hacker Eagle, get together sometimes. The people in our group get together sometimes too.

In contrast to the West's image of hackers as anti-government anarchists, Yan Zhao says the majority of China's hackers are staunch patriots and their attacks on CNN and Carrefour demonstrate their willingness to defend and fight for China in a real cyber-war.

YAN ZHAO (Translation): Many of them took part in this action, some say they hacked Carrefour, some say they hacked CNN. If there is a cyber war between two countries and if our country needs us as cyber citizens or as IT fans, we can work together and we can certainly protect ourselves.

As China's hackers become more sophisticated and brazen, Western security experts are growing fearful.

TIM BENNETT: If you go in through computer networks, you could attack, for example, a power grid across an entire country. So for a tiny fraction of the cost and with much greater speed, you can do crippling economic damage and military damage by doing a cyber-attack.

As one of America's top network security experts, Tim Bennett relies on intelligence services in the US and abroad, as well as his own forensic analysis to track the audacious exploits of China's unofficial army of highly skilled hackers. Bennett believes China has a huge pool of government employees and freelance hackers at work, many driven by their devotion to the motherland.

TIM BENNETT: When spurred by nationalism, you go beyond just the financial motive and you get into that deep emotional motivation, and that can lead to people to pursue this around the clock for as long as necessary.

Alarmed at the nightmare scenario it represents, the United States is funnelling billions of dollars into a new cyber-warfare command to protect against online attacks and in Britain, Belgium and Germany intelligence services have reported sophisticated Chinese attempts to hack government servers.

TIM BENNETT: China has been very active in using this tool, this conduit, in order to gain economic advantage, surreptitiously through industrial espionage, through hacking in to government networks to obtain information as a defence tool.

Bennett says they're also suspected of trying to access a European power grid last year, while, in 2003, a massive power outage shut down the north-eastern United States.

TIM BENNETT: The total cost of that shutdown, I think, was estimated at $6.3 billion for, like, this 12-hour power outage. What I've been told by intelligence sources is that it has been traced back to China. If it has that ability, then it might have the ability to go in and cripple financial networks, transportation networks, nuclear plants, chemical plants, all of which would have devastating effect.

With foreigners flooding in to Beijing for the Olympics, some Western security experts are suggesting they leave their laptops at home. Last year US officials were red-faced when they learned that their top commerce official was the victim of a hacking assault during a visit to Beijing.

TIM BENNETT: The laptop of the US Secretary of Commerce was hacked into by the Chinese Government in advance of the meetings so that the Chinese counterparts to the US Secretary of Commerce actually had his talking points and briefing papers in front of them while he was sitting at the table.

When Dateline put Bennett's claims to the Chinese Government, we received the following response, stating that computer sabotage was prohibited under Chinese law and that, as a global issue, China was also the victim of hacking.
Centuries ago in imperial China, a system existed which allowed ordinary subjects to petition the emperor or his officials with their grievances. That system still exists today and draws tens of thousands of people to Beijing to vent their anger. They're called petitioners.

REPORTER: Alright, can you do some translations for me?

Just seconds after I arrive at this meeting point for petitioners, the crowd starts to gather. I am about to witness an extraordinary scene of public dissent in this one-party state.

CROWD (Translation): Communist bastards! It is a society of darkness. Down with corruption, corrupt officials cover up for each other. They are violating human rights.

Each one of these petitioners has a different story to tell but all are seeking justice in a China beset with inequality and corruption.

HUANG YONG: And we come to petition and they put us in jail.

My translator, Huang Yong, has told them I'm a journalist and, for these forgotten people, I'm a fleeting conduit to the outside world.

CROWD (Translation): We ask western democratic countries to see that justice is upheld and to fight for human rights in China. We have lost the right to live, we have been persecuted and are homeless.

WOMAN (Translation): This is my son, he has been lost for over three months, he is disabled. These criminals have become officials. There are no human rights only corrupt officials, how are we going to solve this problem?

CROWD (Translation): The Communist Party has destroyed our nation and our lives. Hu Jintao must be tried by the International Court.

But in communist China spontaneous gatherings of petitioners like this never last long. The petitioners' conduit was about to be cut off and although, technically, under Beijing's special Olympic rules, I was allowed to conduct interviews, the police were edgy and state security officials arrived to film us and take notes from the crowd. For most of these petitioners, the reality is that within days of arriving in the capital they are rounded up by the authorities and sent back to where they came from. But for the rising class of young urban nationalists like Wang Tuo - awestruck by China's economic miracle – human rights are a secondary concern. He's keenly aware that in 20 years – when China is predicted to surge ahead of the United States as the world's largest economy – he and the rest of China's young nationalist generation may well be in charge – a responsibility viewed in patriotic terms.

WANG TUO, (Translation): I do not think patriotism is only for us, it is for all Chinese citizens, we are the future of our country, like blooming flowers. In future we will run the country and we will make it a better country.



Reporter/Camera
NICK LAZAREDES

Editors
MICAH McGOWN
WAYNE LOVE

Fixers
HUANG YONG
YU MA

Subtitling
DANNY YI
KONG WO TANG

Researcher
VICTORIA STROBL

Producer
AARON THOMAS

Original Music composed by
VICKI HANSEN

 


Source: SBS

 

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