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Chinese Hackers Target Taiwan Opposition, Media Ahead of Vote: Officials

Chinese hackers are targeting Taiwan’s opposition party and journalists, security experts and officials said Monday, weeks away from a presidential election likely to usher in a Beijing-sceptic government.

The move could be a ploy to obtain election-related information, experts said.

Chinese hackers are targeting Taiwan’s opposition party and journalists, security experts and officials said Monday, weeks away from a presidential election likely to usher in a Beijing-sceptic government.

The move could be a ploy to obtain election-related information, experts said.

Tsai Ing-wen of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has a massive lead in the polls ahead of the January vote as the ruling Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) faces a rout.

Taiwanese government websites have frequently suffered digital bombardments from China in the past, usually during disputes between the two sides, according to local authorities.

In a new report published Monday, US-based security company FireEye identified a China-based hacking group as sending “spear phishing” emails to Taiwanese journalists with the subject-line reading “DPP’s Contact Information Update” earlier this month.

“Spear phishing” emails claim to be from senders the recipient knows, but are not.

“Given the timing of these attacks, the reporters targeted, and the information used as a lure, it is possible that the attackers are seeking information relating to the upcoming election and about the DPP in particular,” Bryce Boland, chief technology officer for Asia Pacific at FireEye, told AFP.

FireEye said in its report that infiltrating Taiwanese news organizations would also allow hackers to gain access to informants and other protected sources, who might then be targeted for further intelligence collection or even retribution.

Separately, officials also told of growing cyber attacks from China, despite improving ties since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008.

“We often received fake emails pretending to come from our colleagues, asking us to click some links or download some documents,” said Ketty Chen, deputy director of the DPP’s international affairs department.

Chen said the emails purport to be from members of staff in various departments.

“It’s getting more frequent and we are asking our staff to heighten their vigilance during the election period,” she said.

A DPP official in charge of Internet security who spoke on condition of anonymity said the party is “constantly on guard” and conducts regular Internet security training for staff.

In March, the DPP’s official website crashed and was forced to shut down for at least four days, with party officials saying it was partly due to attacks from China.

China still considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the island has ruled itself for more than 60 years after their split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

Written By

AFP 2023

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