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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Responding to China’s cyberthreat

Responding to China’s cyberthreat

Microsoft on Thursday revealed that it had detected a campaign by China-backed hackers targeting civilian and government infrastructure in the US and its territory of Guam. The report was quickly confirmed by Western intelligence agencies. Some have said the campaign could be part of efforts to delay a US or other allied response to a possible Chinese attack against Taiwan.

The campaign was discovered following the detection of mysterious computer code in telecommunications systems in Guam and elsewhere in the US. The discovery prompted Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK to issue cybersecurity alerts against similar campaigns targeting their systems.

Microsoft analysts said the cyberattacks were carried out by Volt Typhoon, a state-sponsored hacker group based in China, which usually focuses on espionage and information gathering.

However, this is the first time that a threat actor appeared to be laying the groundwork for coming attacks, as the “Volt Typhoon campaign is pursuing development of capabilities that could disrupt critical communications infrastructure between the United States and Asia region during future crises,” Microsoft said.

The cyberattack on government infrastructure in Guam, which is home to a critical US military base key to maintaining Washington’s presence in the Asia-Pacific region, might have been a test run of an attempt to hamper the US’ capability to respond to possible Chinese military action in the region, such as an invasion of Taiwan.

Taiwan is no stranger to cyberattacks originating from China: Government agencies face an average of 5 million cyberattacks and probes a day.

The cyberattacks are part of China’s cognitive warfare campaign, National Security Council Secretary-General Wellington Koo (顧立雄) told media this week, adding that they are also aimed at stealing technology and information, damaging crucial system operations.

Cybersecurity is a new, but crucial field for national security. The latest incident shows that China might launch an invasion of Taiwan while unleashing a volley of cyberattacks against the US and its allies to cripple their responses without firing a shot.

The US House of Representatives Select Committee on Strategic Competition Between the US and the Chinese Communist Party said in a report that Taiwan and the US are vulnerable in the cyberspace, urging US lawmakers to improve cybersecurity at US ports and help Taiwan do the same by passing the bipartisan Taiwan cybersecurity resilience act to deepen transnational cooperation.

To counter cyberthreats from China, Taiwan has steadily put a lot effort into organizational structures for offensive cybercapability, such as setting up an “information in communication electronic force command” to bring communication, cyber and electronic warfare units under one roof.

Experts have said that Taiwan has the capability to breach China’s key systems, examples of which have already been reported.

The government further established the Ministry of Digital Affairs and the National Institute for Cyber Security to direct policy and upgrade technology, and passed the Cyber Security Management Act (資通安全管理法) to enhance the cybersecurity environment in the government and private sectors, as well as to promote public awareness of cybersecurity.

Taiwan could play a critical role in thwarting Chinese cyberattacks worldwide. The nation should accelerate the buildup of cybersecurity networks with other democratic nations to counter Beijing’ disruptive attacks.

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2023/05/31

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Various groups yesterday hold a news conference outside the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office criticizing prosecutors for “passing the buck” and failing to bring charges against former president Ma Ying-jeou for his alleged involvement in the controversial Taipei Dome project when he served as Taipei mayor.
Photo: CNA

Pro-localization groups yesterday accused prosecutors of not taking the necessary steps to prosecute former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for his suspected role in the Taipei Dome project and a classified information leak, demanding that they take action immediately.