UP reels from cyber attacks as Scarborough standoff goes online

MANILA, Philippines — The University of the Philippines (UP) on Friday said it is taking extra precautions in securing its online properties after one of its websites was defaced by what appears to be hackers from China.

In an online interview with InterAksyon.com, UP System Information Office Director Danilo Arao said the security of the UP System website will be reviewed by concerned officials “and further improved because of this unfortunate incident.

UP website defacement

UP website defaced allegedly by hackers from China early Friday morning.

“The University Computer Center says that ‘further analysis is needed to pin down specific vulnerability issues that are exploited in the UP website’,” Arao told InterAksyon.com.

On early Friday morning, the UP website featured a photo depicting China’s territorial claim of the Spratly Islands, particularly the Scarborough Shoal (or Huangyan Island), which has been the subject of a recent standoff between Chinese and Philippine naval forces.

“We come from China! Huangyan Island is Ours!” a caption below the photo of the defacement said.

To date, this is the second attack on a UP-owned website in just a month, the first being a defacement of the UP Los Banos website by Algerian hackers just before the online summer registration of the university.

The UP official, however, clarified that any “relatively popular” website enjoying high traffic could be a target of attack by knowledgeable hackers, websites of UP included.

“As a webmaster, I can say that there is no website or firewall that is absolutely not vulnerable to hacking,” Arao added, while strongly denouncing the attack for depriving “UP community of vital information, particularly the schedule of commencement exercises in nine UP campuses.”

According to a hacktivist interviewed by InterAksyon.com, most Philippine website today, especially those made by the government, have relatively low security measures, which make them vulnerable to attacks by hackers.

“All you need is time and the know-how, and you can exploit these websites easily,” the hacker said.

UP Website

UP Website (http://www.up.edu.ph/) as of 5:00 P.M., April 20, 2012.

In an earlier report, local authorities have admitted that they are “virtually powerless” against these website attackers since there is a patent lack of legislative framework that prosecutes cybercrime in the Philippines.