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China supported website attacks Hong Kong activists : leaking their personal details online!


HK Leaks, a notorious website is targeting Hong Kong pro-democracy supporters, leaking their personal details online and there seems to be no way of catching the site and stopping it.

The website is using a Russian based server and is also supported by China's ruling Communist Party. From Journalists to lawmakers, around 200 individuals, those supporting the protests in Hong Kong have been "doxxed"- had their personal details broadcasted online by the site.

Since June anti-government protests have rocked Hong Kong against proposals to allow extradition to mainland China and clashes between the activists and police have become increasingly violent, with police firing live bullets and protesters attacking officers and throwing petrol bombs. With this new development, of doing activists; the situation shows no sign of dying down.

Privacy Commissioner Stephen Wong said he had ordered HK Leaks to take down all posts but the site remains online. On the home page of the website, a picture of black-clad protester is shown and a banner in Chinese saying, "We want to know who these people are and why they are messing up Hong Kong!". Phone numbers, addresses and personal details of hundreds of people are posted with their "misdeeds". And it is illegal in Hong Kong to disclose certain personal details, including phone numbers, without consent.

HK Leaks has a very sophisticated operation, designed to evade prosecution. It is registered anonymously on a Russian server, DDOS-Guard and has changed domain three times since August.

"The IP address that is shown for the website is not that of the website itself but of the DDOS-Guard company," cybersecurity expert Brian Honan said. The site has a bulletproof anonymous hosting, and whoever is running the website is very good at what they do. It ran as hkleaks.org in early August then migrating to hkleaks.ru, which discontinued in late October and since then three more similar domains have been used by the site.

"This site seems to be really well set up to reveal as little as possible and it doesn't use lots of external services, like buttons, statistics trackers, various scripts that would leak information," said Maarten Schenk, co-founder of the fact-check site Lead Stories.

To extract any details from the domain registrar, a court order would be necessary and the site is heavily supported by the big guns of China with heavy traffic, which is 175,000 unique page views. Chinese Communist Youth League, a group linked to China's Communist Party, has promoted the site's content on its official Weibo accounts. The state-run broadcaster, CCTV and Global Times newspaper, also posted similar messages on their social media accounts.

Some victims also accused the Chinese authorities of involvement behind the leaks, said that the fake address they gave the police during an interrogation showed up on the website HK Leaks.

Hong Kong Protesters being Hampered by a Cyber Attack




The major public protests which unfolded over the last week in Hong Kong are targeting the legislation which would allow accused to be extradited to mainland China to face trial. As the movement became violent, police resorted to tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray in order to disperse the protesters.

Protesters are demanding for the new extradition law (Fugitive Offenders Ordinance) to be scrapped and the debate over the bill has been delayed as the protesters did not assemble again; Hong Kong natives are of the opinion that the law could potentially legalize the kidnapping of people who practice their right to speech to say things or behave in manners that go out of synchronization with the Chinese government. Furthermore, Hongkongers feel that this new extradition law can also be utilized to extradite visitors and travelers who are taken into custody on suspicion.

As over the years, Telegram has been a major platform for activists in Hong Kong and mainland China to systemize and carry out protests effectively and bypass  government surveillance, Telegram CEO, Pavel Durov, remarked in a tweet, "Historically, all state actor-sized (attacks) we experienced coincided in time with protests in Hong Kong,"This case was not an exception."

Twitter saw an upsurge in the tweets which talked about the remarkable management and expert arrangements made for the sizable protests; according to the organizers, a total of 1 million people assembled for the protest, whereas, police recorded a total of 240,000.

The momentum which the protests picked up was the direct result of the audience reached via various social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Telegram.  These messaging apps were used by the protesters to coordinate and spread the word about the Hong Kong protests.

The demand for highly secured and encrypted social media messaging apps is likely to rise up due to a very fundamental citizen need to evade government surveillance and stay guarded against authoritative bodies.