Taiwan and the Philippines have been embroiled in a confrontation since Friday, when the Philippines Coast Guard fired on two Taiwanese fishing boats and killed a Taiwanese fisherman. As both governments are refusing to back down, a cyberwar may have been going on over the weekend; the websites of several Filipino government agencies may have been hacked and incapacitated by Taiwanese hackers in protest over the incident.
And in an unforeseen side effect of the crisis, Internet users from mainland China are expressing strong support of Taiwan in the name of common Chinese ethnicity and reunification -- despite the fact that the Taiwan government and the mainland government, which does not consider it a sovereign nation but a breakaway province, have been at odds for decades.
The Filipino government is maintaining that its Coast Guard fired only once or twice in response to signs of aggression from the fishing boats, while Taiwan is demanding a formal apology. An examination of the fishing boat in question, Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, revealed up to 52 bullet holes, according to Taiwan Dongsen TV. The Taiwanese press is referring to the incident as "a massacre."
According to PConline, a Chinese tech news site, Taiwanese hackers began the attack by disabling the websites of important Filipino government branches. Shortly after, Filipino hackers retaliated and attacked several Taiwanese websites, both governmental and private, starting a cyberwar between the two countries.
A self-described member of the international hacker network Anonymous, identified as AnonTAIWAN, said he took part in the series of attacks. AnonTAIWAN attacked the DNS servers, which translate domain names into IP addresses, of Filipino government websites. By controlling DNS servers, hackers can redirect Internet users to third-party websites, in this case controlled by the hackers themselves. When someone goes to a hacked Filipino website, he or she would have been shown this:
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"MESSAGE TO PHILIPPINES
WE ARE ANONYMOUS.
PHILIPPINE COASTGUARD KILLED TAIWANESE UNARMED FISHERMEN IS INJUSTICE AND UNFORGIVABLE [sic].
PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT PROTECTING MURDERS IS UNACCEPTABLE.
YOU MUST APOLOGIZE. KILLERS MUST BE ARRESTED IMMEDIATELY.
OTHERWISE, WE WILL NOT STOP."
AnonTAIWAN has also posted a portion of the usernames and passwords for these websites.
Some websites of the Filipino government have also been changed to message boards, FTP servers and, in one case, a porn site.
Aside from hackers, other Taiwanese citizens have shown their anger at the Philippines. Hundreds of Taiwanese fishermen congregated in front of the Representative Office of the Philippines in Taipei on Sunday in protest, 163.com reports.
Even netizens from mainland China are supporting Taiwan and calling for the Chinese government to stand up for the island.
"If we want to reunite with Taiwan, we have to extend a helping hand when Taiwan is in danger, especially when it is a common enemy. How dare tiny Philippines!" Weibo user 我要稳稳的幸福 wrote.
"This is not just a provocation on a Taiwanese fishing boat, but a provocation on China and the Chinese race." 凤凰时事辩论会 wrote.
邱毅台湾, a Taiwanese commentator, wrote on Weibo that China and Taiwan should unite to bring the Philippines to justice, and 上海市乐清商会 reblogged and added, "If Taiwan wants to go to war, the mainland will be your strong backer."