&#91FOUNTAIN&#93World cyberwar

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&#91FOUNTAIN&#93World cyberwar

The word for "hacker" in Chinese is heike, or the "black guest." The nuance of the term "black guest" seems more fitting to a "cracker" than to a "hacker." Initially, a hacker referred to someone who was enthusiastic about writing computer programs and sharing those programs with others. A cracker is someone who makes viruses and destroys computer systems.

That is why the hackers of China have come up with a better name for themselves. They call themselves the hongke, or the "red guests." The color red not only stands for wealth in Chinese tradition, it also represents the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese army and the national flag. At the same time, the color red stands for half a century of fighting against foreign interference and imperialism, the history of liberation in the early 20th century.

Such a patriotic and nationalistic symbolism is befitting for the birth and growth of the "red guests" themselves. The red guests were first recognized as a social phenomenon in August 1998. When ethnic Chinese people were attacked by mobs during the rioting in Indonesia, the "red guests" attacked the official site of the Indonesian government.

The "red guests" became world-renowned in May 2001 when they engaged in a cyberwar against the United States. When a Chinese fighter pilot died in a crash involving a U.S. reconnaissance plane, the "red guests" stormed the official sites of U.S. government agencies. What was first estimated to be a group of thousands soon grew to over 80,000. Over 1,000 U.S. government sites, including that of the White House, were paralyzed. The "red guests," however, soon had guests of their own. PoisonBox, a group of hackers in the United States, launched a counterattack. This was the First World Hacking War.

About 65 percent of the "red guests" are college students. The group's objective is to "protect the unity and sovereignty of our country internally and to resist forces threatening China's self-existence externally." The "red guests" are forbidden to attack any Web sites or computer systems in China and they pride themselves as being "warriors of the cyberwar era." It is reported that a hacking program they opened to the public was similar to the virus that nearly paralyzed the entire online network in South Korea last weekend. The cyberworld war has already begun, and no country can sit it out.

by Oh Byung-sang

The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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