Taiwan’s Presidential website and several websites run by the government of Taiwan were disrupted by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks hours before United States Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to mainland China.
According to NBC News Report, the attacks hit four websites, those of President Tsai Ing-wen, the National Defense Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and the country’s largest airport, Taiwan Taoyuan International (where Pelosi’s plane landed).
DDoS Attacks on the Websites
Hackers direct large groups of computers to visit websites at the same time to overwhelm them with traffic and render them inaccessible. The DDoS type attacks are difficult to detect but require minimal skill or infrastructure to conduct the attack. These types of attacks do not do any permanent damage, say the experts.
A spokesperson for Tsai said on Facebook that the president’s website had been the victim of a DDoS attack. Doug Madory, the direct of internet analysis at Kentik, a company that monitors website traffic, said he could see “evidence of a DDoS attack” on those intermittently inaccessible websites.
“Big enough to be effective but not record-breaking,” Madory said in a text message.
In a statement, the Taiwanese government said that the 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”.
John Hultquist, the vice president of intelligence analysis at the cybersecurity company Mandiant states, “While state-sponsored hackers do sometimes conduct DDoS attacks, such attacks are also often the calling card of hacktivists”.
“It is a way that nationalists of any background can express themselves. It doesn’t necessarily indicate any kind of broader coordination or any state actor”.
Hultquist explains in a news report in Politico that the company was tracking an overall increase in Chinese threats against Taiwan. This included two “Chinese information operations” changing tactics to spread disinformation around dangers involved in Pelosi’s visit.
While China’s state hackers have conducted DDoS attacks in the past, they’re far more likely to conduct cyber espionage, Hultquist said. So far, his company has yet to see evidence of that related to Pelosi’s visit, he said.
Even though it remains uncertain who launched the attack, suspicion is already falling on the Chinese government, which has warned that Taiwan will face “serious consequences” for permitting Pelosi to visit the island.
The Chinese government had wanted to regain Taiwan as part of mainland China. Nevertheless, Pelosi’s visit is sparking concerns in Beijing that the US is delicately planning to support Taiwan’s independence as its own nation, separate from China.
Nancy Pelosi said that she is not the only US politician to visit Taiwan. “Our visit is one of several Congressional delegations to Taiwan – and it in no way contradicts longstanding United States policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, U.S.-China Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances. The United States continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo.”