Readers of Global Voices – and of this blog – know that many Chinese people aren’t happy about western media coverage of the Tibet protests. Specifically, they’re really not happy with CNN. And April 19th is evidently slated to be “anti-CNN day” in a number of locations around the world.
Why CNN specifically? Well, Jack Cafferty’s comments didn’t help. Speaking on The Situation Room, he offered the commentary, “So I think our relationship with China has certainly changed… I think they’re basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they’ve been for the last 50 years.” (He’s subsequently clarified that the “goons and thugs” are the Chinese government not the Chinese people. Good luck with that.)
One of the protests that could be most interesting has been organized by a group calling itself “Revenge of the Flame“. They had planned on executing a massive denial of service attack on CNN’s website, launched at 8pm Beijing time on the 19th. The cat, however, is out of the bag, and CNN has reported that they’re expecting the attack and are taking countermeasures that might make the site slow or unavailable in Asia. (In other words, they’re likely filtering requests from large sets of Asian IP addresses and preventing those IP addresses from making more than a few requests per second…) Revenge has responded by calling off the attack and threatening another one at some unannounced point in the future.
Could a group of Chinese hackers shut down CNN? My guess – they could certainly make for a very uncomfortable Saturday for CNN sysadmins, especially if they’ve gotten hold of large botnets. Will some hackers attempt to attack the site tomorrow? Probably. Will they succeed? Wait and see…
Danwei is reporting that CNN is currently blocked in China. That might be a government response to anger over Caffrey’s comments, which have oddly been raised to the status of international incident, when they should probably be dismissed as the rantings of a xenophobic blowhard. But there’s another explanation – if the Chinese government were worried about the implications of an attack by Chinese hackers on cnn.com, blocking the site at a national boundary level might be an effective defense. Assume your attacker has a botnet built mostly from compromised computers within China. It’s pretty trivial to issue a DDOS on a specific URL. It’s trickier to order that DDOS via an unblocked proxy server. Even if you can, you’re far more likely to take down that proxy server than take down cnn.com.
Not saying that’s why they’re blocking the site. Just saying that it’s an interesting possibility. And one worth watching.