Chinese TV channel hacked while on air

Hacktivists in China put anti-government messages up over broadcast programmes while Wenzhou TV station was on air.

Chinese TV channel hacked while on air
Chinese TV channel hacked while on air

At 7:30 pm last Friday messages appeared on Chinese social networking sites saying something seemed to be going wrong with Wenzhou Television. This was the beginning of the temporary takeover of Chinese Television station Wenzhou, by a group calling themselves “The Anti-Communist Party Hackers”.

Just after the buzz on social media, anti-communist messages and images of the 1989 attacks on pro-democracy protestors were shown on screen, overlaying the usual programmes on at the time. Messages included:  “Communist bandits are the real criminals”, “friends do not cooperate with communist devils” “Damn[ed] the Chinese Communist Party's mouthpieces: China Central Television, People's Daily [...] the Propaganda Department and the state Radio and Film Administration”. References to the release of anti-communist activists Wang Bingzhang, who was jailed in 2003, and Nobel Peace Prize-winning Liu Xiaobo, jailed for his involvement in a protest for constitutional reform, were also included in the messages shown that night.

The group said that they hacked in the late evening as that is “when website managers are off work”, but that is all they have said about how they spread their messages. “It is unlikely that we will find out exactly how these attacks happened, as the group didn't comment on the process they went through to hack, and reports on the event have been pulled. For the hack to have been successful, they would have had to do a lot of research and be extremely intelligent, with possible help from foreign parties to get past the tight control.” Sarb Sembhi, director at independent  consulting company STORM Guidance told SCMagazineUK.com.

Wenzhou has not yet commented officially, other than issuing a message telling people how to get rid of the messages, two hours after the hacks began. With censors deleting the messages on Chinese social networking sites to do with the attack, and getting rid of reports on the incident, the “damn[ed] Chinese State Radio and Film Administration” are doing their best to cover up the incident. “The subsequent reaction from the authorities suggests it was a powerful way to send a message,” commented Nigel Stanley, practice director for cyber security at OpenSky UK, talking to SCMagazineUK.ocm. He added, “As we know, website defacement is a common technique used by hacktivists. This had more impact as it appeared on viewer's televisions by surprise, and certainly created a stir. We can't be 100 percent sure who did it, but it is certainly a creative way to make a political statement.”

Some Chinese postings suggest that there may have been a link to the showing of the previously banned film V for Vendetta on China Central Television in December 2012, an anti-authoritarian movie whose key quote, "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people," was subsequently widely shared on social media.

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