After U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a brief visit to Taiwan this week that enraged Beijing, the self-governed island suffered a spate of cyber-attacks.
In some branches of 7-11 convenience stores in Taiwan, the TVs behind cashiers suddenly changed screens to display the words: “Warmonger Pelosi, get out of Taiwan!”
According to multinational news agency Reuters, the largest 24-hour convenience store chain on the island was the victim of what Taiwanese authorities are calling an unprecedented number of cyber-attacks on government websites belonging to the presidential office, foreign and defence ministries as well as infrastructure such as screens at railway stations, in protest against Pelosi’s visit.
Taiwan has not blamed China for the attacks but said that the attacks originated from internet addresses in China and Russia. The country also claimed the firms whose displays were changed had used Chinese software that could have contained backdoors or Trojan horse malware.
Taiwan’s digital minister Audrey Tang said the volume of cyber-attacks on Taiwan government units on Tuesday, before and during Pelosi’s arrival, surpassed 15,000 gigabits, 23 times higher than the previous daily record.
Reuters reported that Lo Ping-cheng, Taiwan Cabinet spokesman, said on Wednesday that the government had stepped up security at key infrastructure including power plants and airports. It had also increased the cyber security alertness level across government offices. On Thursday, he reiterated that no related damage had been detected so far.
“Government departments have been very careful. In these past few days, in terms of public security, we have set up a three-tier government security and communication mechanism, it is already tough and defensive enough so these adaptations have been beneficial,” he told a briefing.
Activist hackers rather than the Chinese government were responsible for the cyber-attacks, claimed a cyber-security research organisation.
Hacker group APT 27, which has been accused by Western authorities of being a Chinese state-sponsored group, claimed responsibility for the cyber-attacks on Taiwan on Wednesday. The group also boasted that it shut down 60,000 internet-connected devices on the island.