A special correspondent with Singapore’s United Morning News (联合早报) in Chongqing, Zhang Xiaozhong, reports on online hacker schools in China. With the number of internet users now at 340 million (and therefore topping the numbers of all other countries worldwide), it has also become a global hacking superpower (世界黑客超级强国), with millions of young people having received training from hacker schools (“黑客学校”), writes the author. He states that there are more than 1,000 hacker schools in China now.
The report refers to them as sixth-generation hackers. Sixth-generation hackers (第六代的黑客) grew up with computers, he writes, and a good share of them is trying to grift money through the internet. However, the article also points out that not all hackers have such intentions. Many just want to prove their skills by hacking websites without damaging or manipulating the content. A hacking instructor describes the hacking students as young, with low educational attainment (so far, anyway – some haven’t qualified for university yet, due to their young age), and unaware of possible consequences (低龄化、低学历、不计后果). Many of those who only hack to boost their egos are unaware that this constitutes a crime already.
Sixth-generation hackers pursue clear economic purposes, writes Zhang. This doesn’t mean that they all want to earn money by manipulating financial transactions. Zhang logged himself into a hacking school and a participant told him that he wanted to become a soldier and become a professional hacker in the army. “I want to help the troops to destroy enemy networks.” The army pays close attention to the hacking scene and has recruited many outstanding hackers already, writes Zhang. A hacker referred to as Li Qiang who is running a hackers’ website named Blackhawk Network (黑鹰网) is quoted as saying that the Defense Science and Industry Commission (科工委) and units of all big areas of command (各大军区等单位) frequently publish recruitment advertisements on his website. Li started cooperating with the government after he had been suspected of teaching cybercrime, writes Zhang.
In general, hacking schools don’t like to be referred to as hacking schools. A hackers base security adviser, Wang Xianbing (王献冰), recently told a paper quoted by Zhang that “we are a network security training school”.
To judge the soundness of the statistics used by Zhang Xiaozhong would be difficult. He bases at least some of it on data provided by those who opened accounts with the hacking schools. There are hacking schools which demand tuition fees, but I’m not sure if this applies to all of the 1,000 schools stated by Zhang. If some earn their money by hosting commercials rather than by fees from the learners, or if they are non-commercial, the common habit of using more than one account may inflate the numbers.
Shanghai Eye describes the ambiguous attitude of Chinese authorities and media towards hacking in a post of July 24. Probably, the “cyberwar” between American and Chinese hackers in 2001, following the EP-3 incident did a lot to boost the Chinese public’s esteem for the trade.