A local hacking group sabotaged websites belonging to the National Election Committee (NEC) on Sunday to protest what it claimed were government efforts to register illegal Vietnamese migrants to vote in this month’s national election.
Instead of the usual interface that allows voters to verify their registration details, the NEC’s voter list website appeared with a message delivered on a black background showing Guy Fawkes masks, the final scene of Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 anti-fascist polemic “The Great Dictator” and a letter to Cambodians written by King Sihamoni.
“Democracy is given to all Cambodian citizens, and the true power of democracy is in the voice of Cambodian people,” the message from Anonymous said. “You are the revolution that can change this world.”
“We are Anonymous, we are legion, we don’t not forgive, we don’t forget,” it added.
The attack was carried out by three members of the self-described Cambodian arm of the international hacker collective Anonymous.
The hackers also managed to disrupt the NEC’s homepage using a so-called Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, which took the site offline for about 12 hours. However, a technician at the NEC said Monday that both sites were restored to normal late Sunday.
“It was just a small DDoS attack to the site necelect.org.kh, and small defacing of the website voterlist.org.kh,” the coordinator of the attacks, a Cambodian national who provided his name only as “Black Cyber,” said Monday in a Skype interview.
“Our members…believe that the voter list stored on that website has the names of Vietnamese people,” he said using a blacked-out webcam and computer software to distort his voice for fear that the call would be intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies.
NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said the body would file a complaint with the court against those responsible for the hack.
“The NEC is not doing that,” he said in reference to the claims that illegal Vietnamese nationals were registered on the voter list. “These are just empty words.”
While the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has long campaigned for reform of both the NEC and the voter list, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann on Monday condemned the attacks as illegal, saying they could harm more legitimate efforts to reform the NEC.
“The government should act to put the people in jail,” he said.
The attack on the NEC websites was not the first time a Cambodian government website has been attacked.
Earlier this year, foreign hackers compromised the websites of the National Military Police and Supreme Court, and last week, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts website was defaced by two hackers who posted images and messages in Spanish.
Black Cyber said Monday that the attacks were a form of “political activism.”
“A DDoS is a form of protest—it’s just like you’re doing a protest in the street,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)
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