Hong kong is considered as an SAR or Special Administrative Region, it kept its own internal ministerial government directly elected by Hong Kong people and they continue to use their HK$ as currency. But seems like that the “autonomy” does not end there when it comes to cyberspace, as hacker groups allegedly linked with Beijing are hitting Hong Kong-based Amnesty International. Beijing and Hong Kong are parts of 1-China, 2-Systems policy that the Communist Party of China implemented since the 1997 Hong Kong restoration to China from the UK.
Amnesty International mentioned that initial detection of the breached happened during their upgrade cycle in March 15. “Cyber forensic experts were able to establish links between the infrastructure used in this attack and previously reported APT campaigns associated with the Chinese government,” explained Amnesty International. Security experts believe that the organization was hit an APT campaign, also known Advanced Persistent Threats, are pulled by “professional hackers,” usually employed by a state.
China has received accusation of attacking the IT infrastructures of other nation-states, however, it continues to be just accusation as China has not been brought to a UN tribunal with regards to such alleged cyber attacks. Though it is not very common for any country with strong economic prowess to build its own elite hacker group. Advanced Persistent Threats are designed to be long-lasting attacks, as the threat actors continue to have access to the systems they infiltrate until these get disconnected from the network.
“This sophisticated cyberattack underscores the dangers posed by state-sponsored hacking and the need to be ever vigilant to the risk of such attacks. We refuse to be intimidated by this outrageous attempt to harvest information and obstruct our human rights work. According to our cyber forensic experts the attack has been persistent, so it has been happening already for a few years,” said Man-kei Tam, Amnesty International Hong Kong Director.
There is still no indication if the same incident will happen again in the future, Amnesty International has not disclosed how they plan to counter a future cyber attack nor they detail the possibility of covering the cost of acquiring cybersecurity defense equipment and services.
“We see this as an attack on civil society and the NGO community as a whole. We don’t want to hide this. Exposing the fact that this is happening is part of, I hope, how we protect ourselves,” concluded Joshua Rosenzweig, Leader of Amnesty International’s East Asia branch.
Other than China, its neighboring countries: Russia and North Korea have heavily invested with regards to training an elite group of hackers, for purpose not disclosed to the public. There is no known data available that tells how many members these elite hacker teams are composed of. Regardless of the lack of solid statistics on the matter, it is safe to assume that elite hacker groups funded by state-actors act on accordance to the goals set to them by their host country.