Hong Kong Protesters’ Phones Hacked With Sophisticated Malware

October 9, 2014 | Rhett Jones

As the “Polite Revolution” continues in Hong Kong, protesters are finding that their phones are being infected with malware. It isn’t clear who’s behind the attack but experts say the sophistication of the virus leads them to believe it was deployed by the Chinese government.

The protests began September 22nd, when a rare mass demonstration broke out to protest Beijing’s insistence that all democratic candidates be vetted by authorities in the central government. Since 1997, Hong Kong has gradually had to adapt to Chinese rule after being governed by Britain for over half a century.

Protesters have managed to continue demonstrating far longer than anyone expected. One way they have been able to organize in the heavily monitored world of China is by using short range communication apps like FireChat. The hacking effort could indicate an effort by the authorities to break up the protests without looking oppressive.

The malware was distributed to Android phones via Whatsapp, and to iOS via Cydia. The iOS hack is what surprised experts most, since Apple’s operating system rarely gets hit by hackers. In this case it’s only going through jailbroken phones where Cydia functions as a sort of app store. Jailbroken phones are much more common in China because citizens want to get around the restricted internet access.

Thus far, protesters have proven themselves to be determined, reasonable and creative so this may only be a minor setback. (Photo: Sam Graham)