Friday, April 22, 2011

Chinese government hackers may be attacking Amazon's cloud service?

A friend recently received the following email from the website which is posting a petition for the release of artist Ai Weiwei, a critic of some of the policies of the Chinese government. In about the last 24 hours there have been a lot of attacks on Amazon's EC2 cloud service, bringing down and a lot of other unrelated websites. There is conjecture that these attacks are from hackers working for the Chinese government. Here's the email my friend received:
Dear [friend of Will],

The petition demanding the release of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has nearly 100,000 signatures.

Here's how we know it's really gotten Beijing’s attention: For the past three days, the website has been repeatedly targeted by cyber attacks coming from China that aim to bring our site down, which would keep people from signing this petition.

Our engineers are working around the clock to fend off the attacks and, for now, the petition is still up.

We need to let the Chinese government know that illegal tactics from within its borders won't stop the mounting pressure on it to release Weiwei. If you haven't already, please join nearly 100,000 members and add your name to the petition now:

To recap: Acclaimed dissident artist Ai Weiwei -- who helped design the famed “Bird’s Nest” stadium for China’s Olympics -- was arrested on April 3rd by Chinese security forces at the Beijing airport. His office and studio have been ransacked, and no one has heard from him since.

The international art community banded together, demanding his release -- and the directors of more than twenty leading museums (including the Tate Modern, Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim) started a petition on that has garnered worldwide attention, including in the New York Times, LA Times, and Guardian.

The campaign has helped to give rise to an international outcry. Political leaders around the world are calling for Weiwei's release and activists have organized peaceful protests at Chinese embassies and consulates.

Though China is desperate to silence its critics, the pressure to free Weiwei continues to grow. You can help by signing the petition now:

Autocratic governments know that the internet is a democratizing force, and they'll do everything they can to suppress online activism. Know that we stand with you for change, and that we will continue to fight to make sure your voice can be heard.

- Patrick and the team

P.S. Due to these repeated attacks, our site may be slower than usual or unavailable at times over the next few days. Thanks for your patience.
If it's true that the EC2 outage is the work of Chinese government hackers, it's a little scary. It means they are capable (like Al Qaeda) of attacking assets on American soil.

It might have been a stupid move, becuase they inconvenienced some of the better-funded Internet companies in America, which have access to some of the best online forensics experts in the world, so there's a good chance the hackers will be identified. Maybe future attacks of this sort can be prevented.

Interesting times. We can only hope that Ai Weiwei is free soon and able to speak freely.

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