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A screenshot of the hacked National Police website bearing the message ‘hacked by S.O.A! strOng’
A screenshot of the hacked National Police website bearing the message ‘hacked by S.O.A! strOng’. Photo supplied

National Police website hacked

The National Police website was hacked on Tuesday night, leaving the homepage defaced and content missing, in what one expert said appeared to be an automated attack that, once again, exposed the vulnerability of many of the government’s websites.

According to Sen Chea, who administers the police webpage, someone from “outside the country” hacked the site on Tuesday at 7pm.

“We are repairing it now, which will take about two or three days. But it is not a problem – they just hacked and hid the contents,” Chea said.

Yesterday morning, text on the website was altered to read “hacked by S.O.A! strOng was here… @uniwar 3”, though the message was gone by the afternoon.

The handle uniwar3 has what appears to be a corresponding Twitter account, which links to the webpage zone-h.org. Niklas Femerstrand, a Phnom Penh-based cybersecurity and networking consultant, said the webpage was a “defacement archive”, which shows which sites have been hacked.

A screenshot of the 'defacement archive' webpage zone-h.org, which was alluded to in message posted on the hacked National Police website Tuesday night
A screenshot of the 'defacement archive' webpage zone-h.org, which was alluded to in message posted on the hacked National Police website Tuesday night. Photo supplied

Femerstrand said the attack targeting the National Police site appeared to be an automated hack, which targeted multiple websites using a vulnerability in WordPress software, which could be easily patched by updating the software.

According to Femerstrand, when vulnerabilities in software are released on the web, automated, non-targeted attacks typically follow. “They are not sophisticated and more akin to ripping a poster down than doing actual damage,” Femerstrand said.

However, he said the vulnerability was easy to exploit and could be used to more serious ends, such as accessing and copying data on the website’s server. The National Police server also hosts several other government websites, including the Education Ministry and Press and Quick Reaction Unit.

However as the police followed “best security practices” by keeping sensitive data separate from websites, the attack was more “annoying” than harmful, Femerstrand added.

Cambodian state websites have suffered multiple hacking attacks in recent years, with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s website and the Cambodian Navy among several hacked last year, and several ministry sites targeted in 2013 by Anonymous Cambodia following the disputed national election.

Social media and email accounts of government and political figures have also been compromised. In May, an unknown perpetrator hijacked the Ministry of Justice Facebook account and shared posts of opposition party campaign events prior to June’s commune election.

More recently, anonymous attackers gained access to the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s Facebook account, while several senior members of the party have complained of their email accounts being hacked.

Chea said the police would update their software and security measures. “For the future, we are looking for a way to prevent it,” he said.

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