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Honker (simplified Chinese: 红客; traditional Chinese: 紅客; pinyin: hóngkè) or red hacker is a group known for hacktivism, mainly present in Mainland China. Literally the name means "Red Guest", as compared to the usual Chinese transliteration of hacker (黑客, hēikè, literally Black Guest as in black hat).
The word "Honker" emerged after May 1999, when the United States bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia and since then, Honkers formed a Honker Union, whose members combined hacking skills with patriotism and nationalism, and launched a series of attacks on websites in the United States, mostly government-related sites.
The name also suggests that a hacker in red, the color of the Communist party, is in combat with hackers in the dark. In the following years, Honkers remained active in hactivism supporting the Chinese government against what they view as the imperialism of the United States and the militarism of Japan.
The group is currently merged with the Red Hacker Alliance.
While Honker Union is not directly related to Hong Kong, the fact that Honker can also mean Hongkongers has caused some confusion in the media. In January 2003, the "worm" SQL Slammer appeared in the Internet. As proof of concept exploit code for the SQL Server bug utilised by SQL Slammer, written by David Litchfield, was found in the Honker Union website, it was speculated that the worm was spread by Honker Union. The Associated Press misstated that Honker might be a Hong Kong hacking group, possibly due to aforementioned naming confusion. Though it was a mistake, Honker Union since then has been falsely connected to Hong Kong in many other documents.
Relationship with Chinese government
Although there is no evidence of Chinese government oversights of the group, with the official government stance against cyber crime of any kind, the Honker Union and other freelance Chinese hackers have a complex relationship with the Chinese government. Greg Walton noted in his studies that Chinese government has been able to use the Honker Union as a "proxy force" when Beijing's political goals converge with the group's nationalist sentiment. He also noted instances of members profited off the Chinese government for their skills and the Chinese government recruited members into security and military forces. Finally, Greg Walton pointed out that there are some calls within the group to be officially recognized and integrated into the Chinese government.
Attacks by Honker Union
In May 2008, the Tibetan writer/blogger and political dissident Tsering Woeser, was reported to be under cyber-attack through her Skype and email accounts being impersonated, also her website was hacked. This attack was claimed by Honker Union.
Attacks against Japanese websites
After the Japanese government announced a plan to purchase the Senkaku Islands (called Diaoyu Islands in China), Honker Union denounced the move and called it a declaration of war. They then listed 100 Japanese entities as targets. For two weeks after that, Japanese central and local governments, banks, universities, and companies experienced various cyber attacks. These attacks include defacing of websites and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
- Walton, Gregory (April 2008). "Year of the Gh0st RAT". World Association of Newspapers[who?]. Retrieved 2009-04-01.
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- Matsubara, Mihoko (October 26, 2012). "Boosting Japan's cybersecurity". The Japan Times. Retrieved October 27, 2012.