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Filipino hacktivists have stepped up their protests against the Anti-Cybercrime Act, expanding their list of targets to include vital government websites even as they directly dared President Benigno Aquino III to shut them down.
The hacktivist collective Anonymous posted on YouTube a video entitled, "Anonymous - Message to the President of the Philippines" in which it warned that the government will feel its wrath if the latter attempts to "shut down the message (and) chill our speech."
"You want to see Anonymous rise up? Try to shut down the message. Try to squash the message. Try to chill our speech. Then you will see what Anonymous can do," it said in a video, at least two versions of which had been posted as of Thursday noon.
"If speaking up against idiocy in government and unconstitutional amendments is a crime, then we are proud to be a cyber criminal," it emphasized.
'Serious threat to Internet freedom'
The video featured a person wearing a suit and a Guy Fawkes mask, with a slightly distorted male voice, describing the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 as posing "serious threats to Internet freedom, the right to privacy and other essential civil liberties including the freedom of speech, expression, and the press."
"As you can see, the worst thing you can do about the country is being blind to its own diseases. Are you trying to console yourself in thinking that we a good government with no flaws? No," it said.
It also chided the government and corporations for thinking they have the right to treat people like property and information "to be handled for profit."
The group warned that trying to control or discipline the Internet will make people from around the world to "just look down on us Filipinos because of this sort of ignorance."
"I am so embarrassed to be under this government right now," the Anonymous spokesperson said.
A video with a similar message was uploaded on YouTube, this time addressed to the supporters of the controversial law.
But in this version, the voice was female, and the video featured a static image of the headless Anonymous logo.
The two videos surfaced a day after the Department of Justice ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to go after the hackers targeting government sites.
Hackers expand to vital targets
Many government websites —some of which are much-needed sources of public safety information— were inaccessible or very slow Thursday morning, a day after hackers attacked high-profile sites to protest the controversial Anti-Cybercrime Act.
The sites were either slow to load or altogether inaccessible as of 7 a.m. Thursday, though many of them were accessible again after 9 a.m. These included:
- National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (www.ndrrmc.gov.ph)
- Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph)
- Department of Science and Technology (www.dost.gov.ph)
- Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (www.mtrcb.gov.ph)
The NDRRMC and PAGASA provide crucial updates, including updates on the progress and effects of Tropical Storm Marce (Gaemi).
While no group had so far directly claimed responsibility for the government's sites' inaccessibility, at least one group had warned the government to "be ready" for Thursday.
"Be ready for tomorrow Government. #\m/thursday," said Anonymous' Philippine Cyber Army, in a post on its Facebook page shortly before midnight Wednesday.
Another group, xL3gi0n Hackers, posted on PasteBin.com what appeared to be a second batch of sites targeted for attack as part of "Occupy Philippines Part 2."
"You think we are done yet? Think again..." the group said.
The sites listed in "Occupy Philippines Part 2" included:
On Wednesday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to go after the hackers behind the attacks.
Anonymous warns members: No wanton hacking
However, there have been strong calls from within the hacker community itself to refrain from wanton hacking and from hitting websites that are vital to public welfare. "People please think before you do something and make sure if you hack into something it will do something good not just by showing off you talents.. Always remember why we are doing this," Anonymous Philippines said on its Facebook page. In particular, the group strongly reprimanded its members for attempting to hack Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) —a government public service meant to provide almost real-time flood updates and warnings. "Not cool," Anonymous scolded its ranks.
Also, at least one hacker group called for a stop to the attacks on government sites.
"Update ko kayo mga mam at sir. wala munang aatake. (I'll update you, ladies and gentlemen. No one will attack for now)," said Anonymous #Occupy Philippines in a Facebook message as of 10 a.m., but did not state the reason for this request.
Palace sites on the defensive
At least one of the affected sites, including the Official Gazette website (www.gov.ph), gave visitors an error message suggesting it was under a denial-of-service (DoS) attack.
In particular, the Office of the President website (www.president.gov.ph), was occasionally inaccessible Wednesday, was accessible but slow to respond on Thursday morning.
However, in a direct message sent to GMA News Online, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) New Media Team emphasized that the downtime was due to internal upgrades and not the result of any cyberattack.
"We would just like to make a clarificatory point. The President's website, www.president.gov.ph was not hacked. We were just doing system maintenance to further enhance the security of the website," they said.
Early Thursday, both gov.ph and president.gov.ph have begun implementing CloudFlare, a security software that scans visitors' browsers for signs of malware or distributed DoS (DDoS) attacks. — TJD, GMA News