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Hong Kong Protesters Fight Cyber Attacks


Student volunteers offer a free phone charging service at “Charging Corner” inside Hong Kong’s occupied central business district. The students have adapted a multi-USB powerboard, and can charge up to 80 telephones from one electric socket, Oct. 8, 2014. (Ivan Broadhead/VOA)

Student volunteers offer a free phone charging service at “Charging Corner” inside Hong Kong’s occupied central business district. The students have adapted a multi-USB powerboard, and can charge up to 80 telephones from one electric socket, Oct. 8, 2014. (Ivan Broadhead/VOA)

Pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong are now entering a second week. Many critics say Hong Kong and Chinese officials are using protesters’ personal information to interfere with the student protesters.

In one neighborhood of Hong Kong’s business area is a place called “Charging Corner.” Student activists gather there to charge – get electricity for -- their wireless telephones.

Some of the campaigners have been on the streets for more than a week without electricity. But their telephones stay charged because of a special USB device. The device uses a series of openings, or ports, that can charge 80 telephones from just one electric source.

Twenty-two-year-old Sirius Lee developed the device.

“Every port is numbered, so we will tell them which port they are actually using, and when they come back to us, they just tell us which port and we verify by checking the telephone number. That is mutual trust.”

Up to 500 people a day use the free service.

But a recent VOA report says some malware coming from China is taking information from mobile phone users in Hong Kong.

Charles Mok is a lawmaker and technology businessman in Hong Kong. He says the development of such viruses may be the work of government agencies.

“I was told by our security experts that it is very sophisticated. And people do have a tendency once that happens to use the term ‘state-sponsored attacks’ and so on.”

Government-supported cyber hacking in China has become a source of conflict with the United States. The director of the FBI, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, says China is “at the top of the list” of countries using cyber-attacks. The FBI says the purpose is to gain entry into records of US corporations and government agencies. China has accused the United States of the same actions.

But now, some Chinese hackers seem to be using non-Chinese data applications to interfere with the pro-democracy protests. A media agency in Hong Kong reported that one young person was offered up to $65 to cause trouble where protests were taking place. The offer came from the application ‘WhatsApp.’ The South China Morning Post newspaper says the money leads back to sources in China.

Charles Mok is also concerned about the actions of police officers in Hong Kong. They have taken protestors’ cell phones during arrests. These devices have not been returned. Mr. Mok says police officials want to gain personal data about the protesters and their networks.

“We’re very outraged, of course. Our lawyers are trying to figure out ways to see how we can stop the police doing this in future.”

Mr. Mok tells students with wireless phones who might be arrested to break apart their devices. He says they should ask for separate containers for each piece. “They become separate pieces of evidence which, by law, they’re not supposed to put back together,” he says.

Many activists think that their phone activity is already being observed. Karen Chung is a 28-year-old software engineer. She says she is careful with the information she has on her phone.

“I think it’s risky if we exchange some information in this area. I didn’t install the apps from the Chinese background. Of course, I am very angry.”

Some computer hackers are fighting back against officials in Hong Kong. The hacker group called “Anonymous” recently announced a campaign to aim at the Hong Kong government. They say the attacks are in answer to Hong Kong's treatment of the pro-democracy protesters. Police say they recently arrested five local hackers. The hackers are accused of cyber-attacks against Hong Kong government websites.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

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Words in this Story

cyber-attacks – n. attacks on computer systems.

hackers – n. people who secretly get access to a computer system in order to get information or cause damage.

interfere v. to get in the way of; to work against; to take part in the activities of others, especially when not asked to do so.

malwaren. software designed to interfere with a computer's normal functioning

USB - n. a system for connecting one device to another such as a printer or keyboard to a computer, by using a special kind of cord. USB stands for Universal Serial Bus.

Now it’s your turn to use these Words in this Story. In the comments section, write a sentence using one of these words and we will provide feedback on your use of vocabulary and grammar.

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