Anonymous Cambodia, a group of local computer hackers, has claimed responsibility for disrupting at least three government websites since Saturday and vowed additional hacking attacks to protest against July’s “unfair” election, according to the group’s Facebook page and Twitter account.
Since Saturday, the hackers have attacked the websites of the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, the Council of Legal and Judicial Reform and state-run television station TVK.
As of Thursday evening, only the Press and Quick Reaction Unit’s website had been restored.
In the attacks, the hackers simply took the sites offline with what is called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.
“Anonymous Cambodia will attack Cambodia government websites to protest against unfair [elections],” the group wrote Wednesday on Twitter.
In the group’s Facebook and Twitter posts about the hacks, Anonymous refers to each of the government-run websites by the U.S. military’s phonetic word for T, “tango,” referring to target.
“Tango down,” Anonymous wrote Thursday on Twitter, with a link to the non-functioning TVK site.
On its Facebook page, Anonymous said its members also hacked the Council of Legal and Judicial Reform’s website, releasing user names and passwords, on Saturday, and then hacked into the Press and Quick Reaction Unit on Sunday about 4 p.m.
Last month, when websites belonging to the National Election Committee (NEC) were hacked, NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said the body would pursue those responsible, but later declined to file a complaint.
Cambodia is currently without a cybercrimes law, though Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that the government last year drafted legislation to pursue hackers.
“The law is against hacking. It is against someone who hacks or intrudes on both government and private data or websites,” Mr. Siphan said Thursday.
The government has yet to release the draft, and when asked for a copy, Mr. Siphan said he could not turn it over because “it belongs to the government.”
“The law will go through this term” of government, he said.
NGOs are skeptical of the proposed law because they say it likely will be used by the government to infringe on freedom of expression online.
“Online freedom has not yet been limited in Cambodia. It’s only limited to people where the Internet is not available. But given [the government’s] history, and they way they treat traditional media, it cannot be good,” said Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
Mark Rasch, a former U.S. federal computer crime prosecutor and now a lawyer specializing in computer and high technology crime, said countries without a cybercrimes law usually prosecute offenses using existing laws.
“Fraud, theft, abuse of trust, or destruction of property,” he said.
Mr. Rasch said the hacks conducted by Anonymous Cambodia fall under “hacktivism,” or hackers who are trying to publicize a political point, and that no matter how the cybercrimes law is worded, it still comes down to how it is applied in terms of freedom of speech.
“When you have hacktivism, like politically motivated protests, the problem is not what the law says, it is typically how it is applied. You may have a well-written crime statute…but it can be applied in a discriminatory way. These laws may go after those that oppose the regime compared to those who support the regime,” he said.
No one has yet been prosecuted in Cambodia for hacking.
When interviewed late last month, one of the hackers involved with the NEC breach who goes by the name “Black Cyber,” and who is also a leader of Anonymous Cambodia, showed little fear of prosecution.
“We’ve hacked the NEC websites, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs…and now I hacked into the Anti-Corruption Unit [ACU] and I am watching them,” he said. “Their password was as simple as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.”
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