05/11/12: Updated timeline. The tension between Philippines and China escalates and new cyber attacks target both sides.
The month of April has suddenly revealed a new unexpected Cyber Conflict between two very different countries: Philippines and China.
Of course the Chinese Cyber Activity is not that surprising, differently from the Philippines which had not shown any bellicose intention in the Cyber Domain. At least until these days when the cyber peace between the two countries has been broken because of a dispute concerning the sovereignty on the Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands claimed from both countries. As often happens, the dispute has crossed the boundaries between the real and the cyber worlds and has hence unleashed an endless and unexpected trail of mutual cyber attacks.
According to Roy Espiritu, spokesman of the government’s information technology office, all the attacks came after Philippine ships faced off with Chinese patrol vessels in April 8 in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Before that, there had been no such eventsm at least until April 2o, when some hackers, identifying themselves as Chinese, attacked to the University of the Philippines. In that circumstance they defaced the UP website (up.edu.ph) with a map, labeled with Chinese characters, showing the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag as called by the Philippines and Huangyan by China).
Needless to say, the latter episode has started an endless line of mutual attacks that are still continuing despite the calls to end the attacks from Manila.
Will the cyber conflict be limited to “simple” defacements, or will it take the shape of the first phase of the Middle East Cyber War when both parties faced themselves leaking credit card details of innocent individuals? Moreover, are critical infrastructure really in danger as suggested by Filipino IT professionals?
Based on the current events, maybe this latter scenario is exaggerated, in any case once again, the upsetting evidence shows that the Cyber World has become a consolidated further battlefield for the disputes inflicting the real world.
If you want to have an idea of how fragile is the equlibrium inside the cyberspace, have a look at the timelines of the main Cyber Attacks in 2011 and 2012 (regularly updated), and follow @paulsparrows on Twitter for the latest updates.