Several Taiwanese government websites were hit by DDoS (distributed denial of service ) attacks on Tuesday. This is reported by the government of Taiwan on Facebook. Among other things, the official website of Taiwan’s presidential palace was the target of an attack. As a result, the site was offline for some time.
The attacks took place hours before Nancy Pelosi’s visit. The Speaker of the US House of Representatives paid a much-discussed visit to the country.
DDoS attacks on government websites
In a DDoS attack, a cybercriminal usually sends a huge amount of internet traffic to targeted servers via a botnet. These servers cannot handle this gigantic number of ‘visitors’, making them difficult to reach or even completely offline.
The presidential palace website was offline for about twenty minutes. Chang Tun-Han, a spokesman for Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, said in a statement on Facebook that Taiwanese government agencies were monitoring the situation in light of “information warfare.”
Also, a government portal website and the website of the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been temporarily taken offline. In a statement, the ministry said, according to Reuters news agency, both websites have been hit by 8.5 million requests per minute from a “large number of IPs from China, Russia and other places.”
The website of Taiwan’s largest airport, Taoyuan International Airport, is also said to have been hit by the DDoS attacks.
According to Reuters, security researchers believe the attacks were not from the Chinese government. For example, Johannes Ullrich, Dean of Research at the SANS Technology Institute, argues that the attacks were the work of Chinese ‘hacktivists’, who presumably acted on their own initiative and were inspired by what the Chinese press writes.
The DDoS attacks are said to come from hundreds of thousands of IP addresses. These IP addresses would be linked to devices registered in the Chinese commercial internet space, Ullrich said.
A similar group of Chinese IP addresses searched for vulnerabilities a few days earlier. This behavior was not in line with the usual activity of Chinese government hackers, Ullrich said.
Visit Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan
The cyber attacks come at a time of rising tensions between China, Taiwan and the United States. They coincide with a visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. According to Pelosi, Taiwan’s independence is an important spearhead of US foreign policy. The Chinese authorities strongly disapprove of Pelosi’s visit and see it as a provocation. China previously threatened, among other things, with ‘targeted military actions’ around Taiwan.