Chinese people have long memories. They’ve not forgiven Britain for going to war over selling opium to the populace against the wishes of the government — even though it was way back in 1839. They’ve not forgiven Winston Churchill for his wartime support of Chiang Kai-shek. And they’ve not forgiven the Japanese for anything. Who, to be brutally frank, have not asked them to. Yuko, my ex, gave me the lowdown on all that crap.

Now hackers in the West are anarchists. But in China they’re rabid patriots, enraged at their country’s loss of face in bygone years at the hands of foreign nations. Like youngsters the world over, they’ve little respect for the government of the day. But hacking foreign websites makes them heroes in their classmates’ eyes, without the pain of getting off their asses and doing something energetic out-of-doors, like playing basketball.

There’s a Chinese word: hei-ke, that sounds like “hacker”. By pure coincidence it means “black visitor”, as in “black hat”. So it wasn’t going to be long before someone coined the term “red visitor” for these jedi-knights of the Middle Kingdom. For which the Chinese word is hon-ke, so they get known as the honkers.

People in the West imagine the honkers to be a bunch of boy-scouts controlled by the Chinese government. That’s a slander on the Chinese government: the honkers are right out-of-control. Maybe the Chinese government isn’t going all out to control them, seeing as the honkers aren’t going all out to overthrow it. But the authorities can hardly be accused of sitting on their hands. Without their internal policing of the internet, patchy though it is, things would be a whole lot worse.

Major corporations, money markets, Mossad or MI6 — none can keep the honkers out. Good online security begins and ends with not coming to their attention in the first place.

Patriots? Or cyber-bandits?

Whichever way you look at it, the honker unions operate with commendable trust and altruism. Whoever you are, if you can read Chinese you can sign-up for free to websites which train you in penetration techniques, arm you with trojans and rootkits, viruses, worms, soft URLs to practice on, plus a battalion of boil-in-the-bag buddies you can VoIP at any time of day or night for free support and consultancy.

No, I don’t read Chinese myself. But there’s another website, nothing to do with the honkers, where you can sign-up for another legion of like-minded individuals. One of them surfed my couch last year: a Chinese student living in England. We sank a few beers together and now we’d risk our lives for each other.

So it wasn’t long before I retrieved the following email from my spam folder:

uproad gps coords to url port 21
usr coldhart pwd icebom
good ruck

Seven single-use FTP addresses: seven satellites awaiting my pleasure. Effectively they had only one payload each, a nominal 20 kg of ice, of which an estimated 60% survived re-entry. Doesn’t sound much, but at the speed it makes landfall — Mach 12 — it packs the punch of a fifty pound bomb.

…to be continued