China’s online lending industry is extremely competitive, but is somebody taking the competition too far? Things have gotten downright creepy for Wang Dai Zhi Jia (WDZJ), an online lending news and information site that has suffered a series of creepy attacks. And the circumstances and timing of the attacks suggest the culprit could be another industry player.
It started on the evening of December 3rd, when WDZJ began suffering a series of attacks from hackers aimed at taking down the site. Those attacks continued into the next day. At the same time, WDZJ executives say, they began receiving harassing and threatening phone calls from unlisted numbers. WDZJ posted a phone screenshot to social media (right) that shows one example of a phone receiving eight calls in the space of three minutes from an unlisted number.
But the real scare came on Sunday morning, when WDZJ employees at the company’s Shanghai office arrived to find doors that looked like this:
Thankfully, that’s red paint rather than actual blood, but the message it sends is still quite clear. WDZJ has already reported the incident to the police and turned over surveillance camera footage from the office that shows the apparent culprits (though their faces are not revealed).
It isn’t at all clear who did this, but it’s worth pointing out that WDZJ does have some enemies. On the evening of December 3, around the same time the hacking attacks began, WDZJ published a news story about online lending company Ezubo, reporting that the company was under investigation and suspected of fraud, with 40 employees having been brought in by police.
Ezubo responded that same evening with a public letter and three legal notices, all accusing WDZJ of publishing false information and dragging Ezubo’s name through the mud. The investigation, Ezubo says, was routine and has concluded already, with all of the company’s personnel having returned to work. (Tech in Asia contacted both WDZJ and Ezubo for comment on this story, and will update if we hear back).
That’s completely circumstantial, of course, but it’s enough for plenty of commenters – the story has attracted quite a bit of attention in Chinese tech circles – to conclude that Ezubo is behind the attack. The most popular sentiment at the moment is supporting WDZJ, and accusing Ezubo of using “gangster” tactics to get its way. But interestingly, many commenters are also blaming WDZJ for bringing the incident on itself. One popular comment reads: “One hand cannot clap without the other […]. If you don’t attack him, then when he bites you he’s insane. If you attack him first, then when he bites you it’s expected.”
Whoever is behind the attacks, this case illustrates that although it’s far more developed than a decade ago, China’s internet industry can still be pretty rough-and-tumble, especially in crowded and fast-developing sectors like online finance. So-called “black PR” has been a fact of life in the internet industry for years, but there are still folks out there who are apparently willing to take things even further.
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