We have received reports from the head of Indonesia’s election commission that they’ve been subjected to a series of cyber-attacks designed to undermine their electoral process most of which originate from China and Russia. The attacks were relentless as they probe through each of the weaker points in their IT infrastructure. Should they be successful then this will pose a threat to the 187 million voters innate intention to primarily choose steadfast leaders like Widodo who took the reins and challenged China’s expansion in the South China Sea.
China’s state-sponsored hacking groups were notorious in breaking in high-profile US military contractors
There’s no question on China’s ability to launch clandestine cyber-attacks against nation states and interfere in their democratic processes. First, they can go head-on and launch hacking attempts to disrupt and access their election database or the main server which holds all of the voter’s data. But I’m pretty sure that our election system has always been built to withstand these types of attacks and there’s been several transparency routes or backup databases which will disprove any malicious alterations to the real-time voting statistics. But we must not discount the possibilities. Owing from the fact that China had become well attuned in these traditional type of cyber-security protocols that even known security software won’t trip their intrusion attempts.
It is important to take note that China has in the past infiltrated large US corporations and stole copious amounts of highly confidential data which endangers the national security of the victim state. One example of which is a navy-defense contractor based in Newport, Rhode Island in the US who does research for Undersea Warfare have been subjected in a barrage of cyber-attacks from the notorious People’s Liberation Army unit, known as Unit 61398 and resulted to many unclassified high-tech naval weaponry blueprints stolen.
What is the Chinese Army Unit 61398?
This a group of elite hackers trained in high-level and meticulous cyber-warfare also better known to as the People’s Liberation Army advanced persistent threat unit. According to experts, these men stole more than 141 organizations worldwide since 2006 which includes high-valued commercial data and military blueprints. They use around 1,000 servers and reportedly employ more than 2,000 people. So judging by the amount of workforce and resources these men have in their disposal. It is without question that they are capable of threatening critical IT systems and infrastructures.
Several years ago, they’ve also been suspected to be the group responsible for the Operation Shady RAT which hacked 70 organizations over a five-year period, including the United Nations, government agencies in the United States, Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The group was even given a special fiber optic communication infrastructure by state-owned enterprise China Telecom in the name of national defense.
The attack on Indonesian elections — what do China gain?
As we’ve already known in my previous blogs praising the Indonesian leader Widodo for his tough anti-china stance and for leading his navy through contested waters as a show of force telling China that they should respect International law or else… He was never afraid of China even if he stands against a Goliath. In the high seas, he proudly sailed with his navy and patrolled the northern seas near Natuna islands where the Chinese navy who at times escort illegal Chinese fishermen to plunder these rich seas for themselves.
The goal was to kick Widodo out in the government and install a Pro Chinese leader who will bow before Xi Jin Ping. They do this in many ways. First, they try to attack the election process itself. The servers, computers, transmissions etc. But one of the most notorious and most effective methods that these hackers can use is through social-engineering by means of propaganda blogs, networks, and automated trolling. Though, I’m pretty sure that Widodo has anticipated these attacks and built up a credible cyber-defense system which will prevent them from happening. Since just last month, thousands of Facebook accounts and pages have since been taken down which was linked a notorious high-profile fake news content creators.
Will we know if China hacked PH elections?
The answer would likely be a ‘No’. The reason being is that unlike Indonesia. Our government has since been surprisingly super sympathetic to China. And it’s likely that the Duterte administration may even help make this happen by allowing the purchase of certain hardware or computers laced with snooping mechanisms capable of altering data and intercepting transmissions which could maliciously alter the integrity of the election results. But the success of this might be slim and there could be data inconsistencies given there are offline VCM cards on each machine which can be used for recounts. So technically — it wouldn’t be that easy. Perhaps, Duterte could find a scapegoat for a recount by whatever means necessary.
Why would they? That is a ‘win’ – ‘win’ for both parties. Duterte needs China’s protection in the UN or in cases that he will be prosecuted by the ICC of crimes against humanity stemming from his War on Drugs that killed more than 20,000 innocent people. Also, China showers Duterte with high-interest loans which were also beneficial for his cabinet men and allies in the Congress since these loans have no conditions attached and no anti-corruption safeguards that come with it. Lastly, should Duterte’s Pro-China bets win their Senate seats? They can now support the passage of Cha Cha which will allow the present 1987 Constitution to be changed and proverbially extend Duterte’s term and allow the unlimited imposition of Martial Law without the approval of the Congress.
Is China also responsible for Fake News?
This is highly likely. Given that they could use this as a backup should their attempt to disrupt the national elections failed and they’d have to ensure that the electorate has sufficiently been manipulated enough which makes them susceptible in voting for Pro China candidates. Though technically, ‘Fake News’ is a ‘social engineering’ technique. A form of hacking which uses electronic warfare to fraudulently fool or manipulates the victim for the benefit of the attacker. China has also known to have employed state-sponsored trolls. Under the guise of ’50 Cent Army’. Moving from different comment sections. Arguing and spreading deceitful propaganda comments. Flaming and harassing others. These types of attacks has since been widely effective and has also been the same strategy used by Russia to undermine the 2016 elections there.
Has there been an increase of trolls and Fake News vs last year?
Yes, there’s been an increase of patriotic trolls and fake news starting from the months leading up to the opening of the campaign period. According to my tool ‘CyberEdsa’. There have been more than 346,742 patriotic trolls operating in Philippine social-media space most of them with an HB level of 1 or 2 which means that these accounts do not have meaningful personal interactions with their friends or with their accounts thus means that these were merely fake accounts created only to sow discord, distrust, and disinformation amongst the electorate. Will be revealing more information about this research initiative and the impacts of automated trolling/fake news over the course of so many years since 2016.
Amidst all the likely attacks coming from China. We have to understand what is at stake and the huge benefits it brings to China should Pro Duterte bets wins this 2019 elections — the ensuing victory will ensure loan repayments out from of debt-trap loans as well as putting the WPS issue aside allowing the Chinese fishermen to plunder our own seas Also,. not to mention the Joint Oil Exploration deal which was previously signed by Xi Jing Ping during his last visit in the Philippines.
Ultimately. China has the experience, the capability, and the resources to make this all happen. Since the outcome of the election will surely serve their best interests — even at the disadvantage of the Filipino people.