The United States and Taiwan are conducting a cyberwarfare drills this week as the online threats facing Taiwan continue.

The exercise will see Taiwanese officials being targeted by phishing emails and texts, after the drill opened at Microsoft Taiwan. Cybersecurity specialists from more than 10 countries, including Australia, the Czech Republic, Japan and Malaysia are attending.

The Taiwanese government, alongside the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which represents US interests on the island, are co-hosting the event.

Cyber drills

According to the Focus Taiwan News Channel, AIT acting director Raymond Greene, speaking at Monday’s opening ceremony, said the exercises are aimed at strengthening domestic cyber defenses and promoting closer international cooperation on cybersecurity.

“Ultimately, the success of this week will be measured by whether all of you remain in close contact with each other after the exercises are over,” said Greene of the exercises.

The exercise is officially called the US-Taiwan Cyber Offensive and Defensive Exercises (CODE).

Greene was quoted as saying that one form of future cooperation may be to bring Taiwan into the Department of Homeland Security’s Automated Indicator Sharing system.

This is a system that shares cyber threat indicators in real-time.

Greene was quoted as warning that the biggest threats today are no longer troops landing on beaches, but efforts by malign actors to use the openness of societies and networks to attack industries, democratic institutions and the integrity of critical infrastructure.

The Focus Taiwan News Channel cited Howard Jyan, director general of the central government’s Cyber Security Department, as saying that Taiwan is particularly threatened by such attacks.

Jyan said that in 2018 alone, Taiwan’s public sector had faced an average of 30 million cross-border cyberattacks per month.

Jyan reportedly said that although only a small fraction of them resulted in theft or tampering of confidential or sensitive information, the number of cyberattacks against Taiwan are considered high compared to European countries, which are hit by an average of only several thousand attacks monthly.

State actors

Jyan was asked by reporters where the attacks where coming from, and he estimated that about half of all the attacks came from China.

Greene meanwhile pointed out that North Korea is also active in this regard.

The exercises will reportedly include training and exercises provided by the US government on North Korea’s cyber threats, live-action cyber exercises between Taiwan and regional partners, and a discussion on lessons learned, according to the AIT.

And cybersecurity specialists from partner countries will launch simulated attacks on websites of Taiwan’s government and financial institutions, while the Taiwan side will try to detect and defend against those threats.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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