Cyber Attack On Taiwan’s Presidential Office, Amid Nancy Pelosi Visit

DDoS attack

Website of Taiwan’s presidential office suffrs an overseas cyber attack on Tuesday, amid US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visit

The heightened tensions in Asia emerged on Tuesday after the website of Taiwan’s presidential office suffered an ‘overseas cyber attack’.

According to Reuters the website suffered a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on Tuesday and was at one point malfunctioning, before it was brought back online after only a 20 minute outage.

A government portal website and Taiwan’s foreign ministry website were also temporarily taken offline on Tuesday.

China tensions

In a statement, the Taiwanese foreign ministry was quoted by Reuters as saying that both websites had been hit with up to 8.5 million traffic requests a minute from a “large number of IPs from China, Russia and other places.”

The overseas cyber attack on the Taiwanese government website comes amid rising tensions with China over the visit by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday.

China has strongly condemned the visit, after Pelosi met Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, and Beijing warned the US would “pay the price” for Pelosi’s visit.

Pelosi is the most senior US politician in 25 years to visit Taiwan, and she said her delegation had come to make it “unequivocally clear” that the US would not “abandon” the island.

The visit triggered the Chinese military to begin live fire military exercises either in, or close to Taiwan’s defensive zone.

Indeed more than 20 Chinese military planes had apparently entered its air defence zone on Tuesday.

China still claims Taiwan to be part of its territory (it alleges Taiwan is still a break-away province of China), but Taiwan denies this and has its own democratically elected government and armed forces.

Reuters reported a cybersecurity research organisation as saying that cyber attacks against Taiwanese government websites ahead of Nancy Pelosi’s arrival in Tapei was likely launched by Chinese activist hackers rather than the Chinese government itself.

“These are uncoordinated, random, moral-less attacks against websites that Chinese hacktivists use to get their message across,” Johannes Ullrich, Dean of Research at the SANS Technology Institute was quoted as saying.

“Usually it continues for a few days, but they often lose interest within a week. Many of the attacks are motivated by what is written in the Chinese press,” Ullrich added.

Technological irritation

Meanwhile Ed Macnair, CEO of cyber security specialist Censornet said that while DDoS attacks can be considered a technological irritation, they could be a warning of future attacks, and steps can be taken to mitigate the risks.

“This type of technological protest is on the increase,” said Macnair. “It’s a technological irritation, but an attack that most organisations recover from. The concerning thing is that the DDoS attack could be a warning shot of future cyber action.”

“An autonomous cyber response is needed to raise the bar in cyber protection,” said Macnair. “By adopting a zero-trust approach, computer systems can be isolated from potential attackers.”

“The introduction of a zero-trust layer can make applications impervious to many forms of network-based attack including scans, vulnerability exploits, DoS, and DDoS attacks,” Macnair concluded.