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Dharamshala: - Tibetans frequently use technology such as the Internet, phones, and radios to keep informed about events inside Tibet as well as to keep in touch with friends and relatives. Increasingly, according to a report from Voice of America, China is increasingly conducting "cyber-warfare" to prevent such communication.

Kanyak Tsering, an exiled monk, belongs to a Kirti Monastery based in Dharamshala. The main branch of Kirti Monastery in Tibet has been under tight security for months, and Kanyak acts as an advocate for the monks there by maintaining close contact with those inside.

Drawing on information from contacts at Kirti, Kanyak said that monks there are forced to attend classes on "patriotic re-education." Refusal to attend results in expulsion from the monastery.

Kanyak gets his information mainly from the Internet; from Skype, e-mails, and chat rooms. He also uses mobile phones to obtain information.

Exchange of information has to be done discreetly, though, because China keeps a close watch on communication between Dharamshala and Tibet.

Greg Walton, a researcher who advises the Tibetan administration on security, said that China uses technology usually reserved for cracking major defense or financial information to keep track of Tibetan exiles.

"What is intriguing is that often we'll see that the same command-and-control servers which are going after the big defense contractors, and stealing details of stealth bombers, or going after the big financial houses in New York - the same command-and-control servers are going after monks in Dharamshala," Walton told VOA.

Kanyak told The Tibet Post that a friend of his recently received an email from his address with a strange attachment.

His email was used three times; tracing revealed that users were located in Beijing and other areas of China.

This was the first incident of his account being used, he said.

While there is a good indication that the Chinese government was involved, there has not been 100% confirmation on the identity or the intention of the users.

In response to the incident, he has changed his e-mail address and his password. Though he thought his Google account was safe and reliable, he said, it was not.

As a precaution, he also deletes all unknown emails. He does not understand English, so if he gets an email in English he assumes it is not for him.

The Tibet Post also receives many false e-mails. Especially around the time of Kalon Tripa Lobsang Sangay's inauguration last week, The Tibet Post's email account was full of so-called "urgent" messages from the office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, representatives of Central Tibetan Administration departments, and Tibetan NGOs.

The editor of The Tibet Post said he never opens these emails; if it were truly an urgent matter from an administration official, they would call the office.

Cyber attacks seek to lure the recipient into clicking on a link or opening an attachment; the attachment or link will then implant malware onto the recipient's computer.

Trusted people such as Kanyak are often targeted; the Chinese government uses e-mail accounts of trusted sources so that their friends and contacts open the attachments without concern.

Many exiles are starting to train Tibeans about cyber-security. Lobsang Gyatso teaches Tibetans about Tor, "a network of volunteer routers that helps users hide their location and identity from repressive governments," says VOA.

TOR can be stored on a pen drive and can be used easily to get around the Chinese firewall; however, China's efforts in cyber security mean that no one is completely safe.

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E-mail: editor@thetibetpost.com