Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China’s website suffers cyber attack

Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China’s website suffers cyber attack

Latika Bourke – The Sydney Morning Herald – 31 March 2021

London: The global coalition of MPs pushing their governments to take a firmer stance against China suffered a major cyber attack on Monday (UK time).

The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China’s website was out for around nine hours on Monday after suffering a distributed denial-of-service or DDoS attack.

A distributed denial-of-service attack occurs when a website is flooded with connection requests by a network of computers, causing the site to slow significantly or crash.

The DDoS on IPAC’s website, which is now back online, came around 24 hours after a separate cyber attack on Nine which took Sunday morning programs off-air and disrupted operations at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, which are published by Nine. IPAC co-ordinator Luke de Pulford pointed the finger at China as the culprit.

“This isn’t the first time we have been attacked,” he told The Herald and The Age.

“But – while Beijing might be able to knock us off the internet for a few hours – nothing will stop our members standing up for the Uighurs, Hong Kongers, and everyone else oppressed by Xi Jinping’s regime,” he said.

IPAC has alerted Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre.

A spokesman for the centre said cyber security staff were available for MPs and staff if required.

“We are working to fully understand the nature of this incident and have offered technical support,” the spokesman said.

“Cyber security advice and personal support from the NCSC is readily available for MPs and their staff.”

Robert Pritchard, founder of The Cyber Security Expert said the Chinese state had the apparatus to conduct DDoS attacks, which return websites to normal once finished.

“Attacks like this, against critics of the Chinese state, are really clearly just meant either to prevent people accessing publish material the Chinese state apparatus finds objectionable, or simply to disrupt the operations of the target,” he said.

“A DDoS attack cannot happen by accident, although it may be the target has been misidentified in some way but that is unlikely to be the case here,” he said.

Chair of Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security James Paterson called the apparent cyber attacks on Nine, IPAC and the Australian Parliament’s email system in the last week “a timely reminder there are bad actors out there looking for opportunities to disrupt the operations of businesses, civil society groups and governments for profit and politics.”

“This is the new frontier of greyzone conflict and we cannot afford to be complacent about the dangers it poses to our way of life in a digital world.”

IPAC was formed last yearpartly in response to China’s bullying of Australia after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

It comprises around 200 MPs from 20 legislatures around the world including Australia, the UK, US and Germany. Chinese state media has previously labelled the group the “nuisance alliance” but has recently stepped up its criticisms of the organisation.

Last week, China’s foreign ministry sanctioned several of its European and British members, in retaliation for joint Western sanctions imposed on Chinese government officials over the repression of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, where up to 1 million are estimated to be detained in so-called re-education camps.

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