News / Asia

Tibetan Exiles Accuse Chinese of Cyber-Attacks

Kurt Achin

By mobile phone, Internet and shortwave radio, Tibetan exiles maintain a constant watch on their friends, contacts and relatives living in Tibet under Chinese control.  China's increasingly sophisticated ability to conduct cyber-warfare is making the task more challenging, and pushing Tibetan exiles to develop training programs for keeping themselves secure online.

Kanyak Tsering is an exiled Tibetan monk.  He belongs to a Dharamsala, India-based branch of the Kirti monastery, a Buddhist compound across the Chinese border that has been under a lockdown by security forces for months.

VOA's Tibetan language division was recently able to obtain video images of the Kirti compound, where a young monk immolated himself in March to protest what many Tibetans view as China's deliberate eradication of Tibet's traditional Buddhist culture.

He says all the monks in the monastery are forced to attend the patriotic re-education sessions,  and Chinese officials tell the monks that if they don’t attend,  they will be expelled from the monastery.  In a few cases, he says, monks have tried to hide and were expelled as a result.

For months, Kanyak has had to step into the role of a spokesperson for the Kirti monastery, using every technological tool at his disposal.  China closely tracks any communication between Tibet and Dharamsala, where Tibetan exiles have had their unofficial capital for more than 50 years.  China views the small Indian city as the headquarters for a separatist movement.  So, information flows have to be indirect.

"I get information in various ways - over the Internet using e-mails, websites, chat rooms, and Skype.  Sometimes I make contact through mobile phones when Tibetans phone other Tibetan exiles they know," said Kanyak.

As he speaks to VOA, Kanyak receives a phone call.  A contact says he has received an email appearing to be from Kanyak, but with a peculiar attachment.   When Kanyak traces the email, he finds it has originated from an Internet address in China.

He says he can't say this or that individual is directly responsible, but that it is clear to him the Chinese Government is involved.

Greg Walton is an independent researcher who advises the Tibetan exile administration on security.  He agrees that the email was probably a product of the Chinese government's increasingly vast cyber-offensive capability.  

"What is intriguing is that often we'll see that the same command-and-control servers which are going after the big defense contractors, and stealing details of stealth bombers, or going after the big financial houses in New York - the same command-and-control servers are going after monks in Dharamsala," said Walton.

Cyber attacks are cleverly worded to convince recipients to click on a link, or open an attachment, which implants malware on the recipient's computer, giving digital eavesdroppers wide-ranging access.   

Walton says a monk like Kanyak is a highly valuable target. "Such a person is going to have a rich social graph, from the attacker's point of view," added Walton.  "Someone like that is very trusted, and if the Chinese are sending out emails from that account, it raises the probability that someone is actually going to trust the attachment and open."

Activist Tibetan exiles are stepping up efforts to train Tibetans about cyber security.  Much of the material is in English, so the first task is translation.

Lobsang Gyatso teaches Tibetans who plan to re-enter Chinese-controlled areas about Tor, a network of volunteer routers that helps users hide their location and identity from repressive governments.

"What we have is a USB Tor.  Which you can just carry in a pen drive and you use it wherever you want.  So you have complete anonymity, and at the same time you are able to circumvent the Chinese firewall," Lobsang explained.

The strategy entails risk for those carrying the pen drives back into Chinese-controlled Tibet.  Activists also warn that even though tools like Tor are effective, China's massive investments in cyber security mean no user is guaranteed 100 percent safety from watching eyes.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More