Hackers proclaim: “We come from China! Huangyan Island is Ours!”
The two-week old standoff between the Philippines and China in the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal located in the West Philippine Sea has spilled over into the cyberspace. The website of the University of the Philippines (UP) has been defaced early Friday morning by suspected pro-China hackers. UP is the national university of this Southeast Asian country.
Hackers uploaded a map of the West Philippine Sea (or South China Sea) and its nearby countries in the landing page of the UP website. The map has labels in Chinese characters. The screenshot below was taken by Lawrence Velasco, accounting and finance instructor at the UP College of Business Administration:
Velasco discovered the website defacement at around 4 AM. He promptly tweeted certain Philippine media personalities and organizations about the matter, explaining later on that he asked the media to contact UP since he was in France and “didn’t know how to contact the university aside from Twitter.
Danilo Arao, the University’s Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs, denounced the attack, describing it as “an attempt to deprive the UP community of vital information, particularly the schedule of commencement exercises in nine UP campuses and the April 2012 issue of the UP Newsletter which was uploaded last April 17.”
A downtime notice has since been posted on the UP system website: “The University of the Philippines System website (http://www.up.edu.ph) is currently undergoing maintenance. The UP Computer Center is conducting an evaluation of the website and its contents. This website will be restored to its operational status as soon as the maintenance checks have been completed. Thank you.”
In a phone interview, Arao explained that the website’s security is a “shared concern” of the UP System Information Office and the UP Computer Center. “We’re trying to check the vulnerability of our content management systems,” Arao said.
He added that although the hackers “merely uploaded a JPEG file in the landing page,” they will also look for possible malicious files embedded in the system. He reiterated that the hacking incident is isolated to the UP system website.