Nov. 5 (Bloomberg) -- The Anonymous hacker group stepped up cyber attacks across Southeast Asia, targeting websites in the Philippines and Singapore before a global protest today against censorship and government corruption.
Anonymous Philippines said it infiltrated 115 government websites before a demonstration outside congress in Quezon City as part of a global “Million Mask March,” coinciding with Guy Fawkes Day in the U.K. The mask of Fawkes, who tried to blow up the English Parliament in the 17th century, has become a symbol of the movement. Seventy riot police were on hand at the start of the protest, outnumbering demonstrators more than 3-to-1.
Anonymous Philippines has called on the public to join the “revolution” today. “The government, in many ways, has failed its citizens,” the group said on its Facebook page. “Fairness, justice and freedom are more than just words.”
In Singapore, a website owned by the city’s biggest newspaper publisher was temporarily shut yesterday after being hacked on Nov. 1. A video uploaded on the YouTube website last week showed a person in a Guy Fawkes mask threatening to bring down Singapore’s infrastructure to protest Internet regulations.
Anonymous Indonesia said on its Twitter page that it had infiltrated more than 100 Australian sites in response to reports of spying by Australia.
“I do not see this as a people’s power but more of a few people going after those with power in the system through clandestine means,” said Bridget Welsh, an associate professor of political science at the Singapore Management University. “Cyber issues reflect a major arena of political contestation that will only intensify in the years ahead.”
The threats in the Philippines have prompted President Benigno Aquino’s government to say that it will take action against those who hack websites to protest corruption. The Singapore police said government websites are down for “maintenance” and warned against “misreporting” of “rumors.”
Anonymous has stepped up its criticism in the Philippines as Aquino’s government remains embroiled in a scandal over the misuse of public funds. Prosecutors have recommended corruption-related charges against a group of lawmakers and a businesswoman related to the alleged improper use of funds that lawmakers doled out at their discretion on infrastructure and development projects.
“There is sufficient democratic space, so there’s no need to resort to illegal acts,” Philippines’ Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma told reporters in Manila yesterday.
Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. said it was investigating after some users had difficulty accessing the Straits Times online yesterday. The website was infiltrated last week by a hacker who said the newspaper distorted Anonymous’s position by saying the group is at war with Singapore instead of with its government. Singapore Press confirmed that infiltration.
Singapore from June 1 required websites that regularly publish news on the city state to be licensed and pay a S$50,000 ($40,200) bond, to be forfeited on the publication of “prohibited content” that “undermines racial or religious harmony.” The new laws has prompted criticism from Anonymous.
Singapore government agencies were put on alert for possible attacks, the Straits Times reported on Nov. 1. The Messiah, a hacker with Anonymous, claimed responsibility for infiltrating the website of the Ang Mo Kio Town Council last week, the municipal branch of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s constituency.
The city’s Infocomm Development Authority said in a statement yesterday that maintenance on Nov. 2 uncovered a fault involving “a routing issue and a hardware failure” that affected some government websites and was later fixed. Government agencies have been on “heightened vigilance” because of the threats, according to the statement.
Guy Fawkes Night is held annually in the U.K on Nov. 5 to mark the anniversary of the discovery of a plot organized by conspirators including Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London in 1605.
To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Tan in Singapore at email@example.com