TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Decentralized international hacktivist group Anonymous last month hacked into a Chinese weather balloon, which flew over India twice, and posted screenshots from its control panel on a defaced Chinese study abroad website.
Amid the uproar over the flight of a Chinese spy balloon over the U.S. in early February, an Anonymous representative who goes by the Reddit handle "HaileeSteinfeldFan" on Feb. 18, informed Taiwan News that the collective had hacked into a Chinese overseas art education website where it posted screenshots from a stratospheric weather balloon control panel and recent flight path. The hack of the Shanghai-based DP Art & Design Center included a main defacement page, a "Wandering Balloons" page, and a page with screenshots of the "thunder monitoring system."
At the time of publication, the defaced pages were still accessible online. However, in anticipation of the eventual removal of the vandalized pages, Anonymous has created archived versions of the defacement, balloons, and control panel.
The top defacement page starts out with the Anonymous logo, the "Taiwan Numbah Wan!" meme, the Taiwan flag, the Taiwan emblem, and the music video for "Fragile." The collective then announces that the hack is a response to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for sending a balloon to America as a form of "trollish provocation."
The hacktivists criticized the CCP for its handling of the COVID pandemic and how it "aims to control the world like a James Bond villain through overseas police stations!" This was followed by a photo of the Chinese spy balloon that flew over the U.S., a trailer from the Disney/Pixar film "Up," and CNN archive footage of Tank Man in 1989.
Next was a poem generated by ChatGPT mocking the Chinese surveillance dirigible:
Oh lost balloon, so light and so fair,
Drifting through the sky with not a care,
Once held tight, now free to soar,
Through the clouds you go, forever more.
Your journey takes you to new lands,
Soaring over hills and shifting sands,
The winds of fate carry you away,
On your journey through the skies so gay.
With every gust, you rise and fall,
Dancing in the air, having a ball,
A symbol of freedom and of glee,
Lost balloon, you soar so free.
And though you're gone, your spirit remains,
In the hearts of those who watch your gains,
A reminder to embrace life's ride,
And to follow your dreams, wherever they may guide.
The collective also railed against Wikipedia for allegedly underrepresenting women in its articles, having a "spending cancer," engaging in deletionism, and committing POV skewing. It also accused Wikipedia of failing to adequately support two Wikipedia Arabic editors, Osama Khalid and Ziyad al-Sofiani, who have been imprisoned by the Saudi government for "swaying public opinion" and "violating public morals."
The page then included footage and images of Tyre Nichols, Anthony Lowe, and Joe Frasure Jr., all of whom were killed by police. The last section of the page criticized the disregard for human and animal lives by the Soviet Union during its pursuit of 'firsts" in the Space Race.
Location of balloon in Beijing on Feb. 15, 2023. (Anonymous image)
The Wandering Balloons page includes six photos of the Chinese spy balloon that flew over North American airspace from Jan. 28 to Feb. 4. Next is Sky News footage showing the moment the Chinese spy balloon was shot down and a 10-hour version of the song "Married Life" from the film "Up."
Anonymous then claimed to have successfully hacked into the control panel of a similar Chinese balloon. As proof, it included screenshots from a map from the system showing the location of the balloon in Beijing as of Feb. 15, 2023.
Map shows complete flight path of balloon. (Anonymous image)
The next screenshot shows a previous flight path for the balloon which started near Nanchang in China's Jiangxi Province and flew southwest over Myanmar, Bangladesh, southern India, the Arabian Sea, eastern and central Africa, and the Gulf of Guinea.
It then flew back to the northeast over central and eastern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabian Sea, Pakistan, India, and Nepal, before arriving in Beijing. A series of six screenshots then showed English defacements the collective had inserted in the control panel.
Starting point of balloon. (Anonymous image)
Examples of messages posted included "Please donate your money to Turkish earthquake victims," "Where is Peng Shuai?," "CCP did you flew (fly) your wandering balloons across India?," "RIP LI Wenliang," and "Free East Turkistan."
Two subsequent screenshots showed the precise coordinates where the balloon originated near Nanchang at an altitude of 168 meters and moved at a speed of 0.32 kilometers per hour, with the "data time" listed as June 23, 2018. It was then recorded in Beijing at a height of 71.3 meters moving at a speed of 0.32 kilometers per hour on a "data time" of Aug. 1, 2018.
Ending point of balloon. (Anonymous image)
Higher on the page are five screenshots of what appears to be the magnified version of the defacements. The third page merely includes the Anonymous logo, a screen capture of the balloon's control panel, and a meme showing an irate Greta Thunberg with the words "How dare Wikipedia" printed above and "Distorts to insult holocaust victims and survivors" below.
Screenshot of defacements placed in balloon control panel. (Anonymous image)