Digital Journalism Review
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 4:38pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 4:47pm

China No 1 in netizens - and cyberattacks


Ivan Zhai is the Social Media Editor at the South China Morning Post. Prior to his current position, Ivan spent 10 years working for the Guangzhou-based 21st Century World Herald and in the Post's Guangzhou bureau, covering Chinese politics, macroeconomics and online communities. In 2008, Ivan won an Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship. He shares his findings and thoughts on digital media, cognitive neuroscience and China on Twitter and Chinese microblogs as @ivanzhai.

China will probably retain its position as the world’s biggest source of cyberattacks for quite a while, giving its enormous number of its netizens.

According to the “State of the Internet” report for the third quarter of 2012, which was released by Akamai on Wednesday, a third of all computer attacks came from China. This respresents a dramatic increase over the previous quarter when only 16 per cent of cyberattacks originated in China.

The figures proved, said some Chinese programmers, that China had become one of the most popular bases for global hackers to find camouflage behind the average Chinese netizens’ lack of online knowledge and more specifically knowledge about how to protect themselves online.

Most hackers use less knowledgeable netizens’ computers as camouflage from which to launch their attacks.

The report did not claim the attacks “were by China”, but crucially “from China’, a Shanghai-based software developer who didn’t not wish to use his name said.

The doubling of the number of attacks from 16 (in the second quarter) to 33 per cent (in the third quarter of last year) was dramatic as the number of Chinese netizen had not grown at a similar proportion over that period of time, the developer said.

Many hackers who initially found targets in east Europe had now shifted their focus to China where, with the largest online population in the world since 2007, it was very to camouflage their attacks, said Ben Crox, a Hong Kong-based programmer and the organiser of BarcampHK, a start-up company.

“Many young Chinese (who know only a little about coding) imagine they are really cool hackers and sometimes will download code by real hackers, inadvertently causing their computers to be controlled by it,” he said.

As the end of 2012, China had 564 million netizens, according to the latest report released by the China Internet Network Information Centre last week.


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