With cyberattacks becoming the new normal among nation-states, smaller countries such as Taiwan are trying to navigate the technology might of bigger nations such as China and its military pressure.
To defend against the estimated 20 million to 40 million cyberattacks per month, Taiwan’s cybersecurity chief told CNN Business that Taiwan employs roughly two dozen computer experts to deliberately attack the government’s systems.
Taiwan says it has successfully defended against most attacks. Hundreds of successful breaches, but only a few are “serious.” According to Chien Hung-wei, head of Taiwan’s Department of Cyber Security, the issue has compelled the government to take it seriously.
“We have a high degree of confidence that many attacks originated from our neighbour,” he told CNN Business. “Our government runs on the internet,” Chien said. “Our critical infrastructure, such as gas, water, and electricity, is highly digitised, making network security vulnerable.”
President Tsai Ing-wen declared cybersecurity a national security issue. According to Taiwan’s official Central News Agency, she announced the creation of a new digital development ministry in May.
Foreign Minister Joseph Wu recently accused China of using military intimidation, disinformation campaigns and cyberattacks to erode Taiwanese trust in their own government.
Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately for over 70 years. Beijing considers Taiwan an “inseparable part” of its territory and has threatened to use force if necessary to prevent the island from formally declaring independence.
China has recently increased military pressure on Taiwan. A dozen Chinese warplanes flew near Taiwan in June, causing Taiwan to activate its air defences.
It was the most warplanes sent to that zone since Taiwan began keeping track of them, last year. Beijing has also warned Taipei to “prepare for war” as it strengthens ties with the US, according to CNN.
Experts have expressed concern about both military and cyber warfare. Moreover, the West recently accused China of launching a massive global hacking campaign.
A campaign against Microsoft’s Exchange email service in March was among the accusations made against China’s Ministry of State Security on Monday.
Earlier this month, US-based cybersecurity firm Recorded Future claimed a Chinese state-sponsored group was targeting Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute.
It found Chinese groups targeting Taiwan’s semiconductor industry to obtain source codes, software development kits, and chip designs. It based its claims on evidence gathered through network traffic analysis, which looks for security threats.