Taiwan: A Useful Ally Against China’s Cyber Warriors?

Recent Features


Taiwan: A Useful Ally Against China’s Cyber Warriors?

Taiwan could be a useful partner in countering Chinese hackers, says the country’s vice premier.

Taiwan: A Useful Ally Against China’s Cyber Warriors?

Vice Premier Simon Chang

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This Monday, Taiwanese Vice Premier Simon Chang stated in an interview that he wants his country to establish a closer partnership on cybersecurity with the United States, according to Reuters. The reason behind the Vice Premier’s remarks is the steady increase in the number of cyberattacks on Taiwan’s critical information infrastructure originating from mainland China.

“Taiwan has no enemy in the international community except you-know-who. Who in the world would try to hack Taiwan?,” Chang rhetorically asked. He furthermore emphasized that Taiwan is used as a testing ground for future sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored attacks on U.S. targets.

He also stressed that Taiwan’s critical information infrastructure could be used by Chinese hackers as backdoors to gain access to U.S. systems, although he noted that the principal motivation of mainland hackers is not to steal U.S. data.

Furthermore, he reiterated his demand for Taiwan to be allowed to join the biennial Cyber Storm exercise hosted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — one of the most comprehensive cyberattack simulations worldwide. A 2015 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) entitled “Taiwan’s Marginalized Role in International Security” notes on this subject:

“Taiwan has twice applied to observe U.S. Cyber Storm’s biennial exercises, but has not yet been invited. During Cyber Storm IV, the national Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center sponsored the International Watch and Warning network (IWWn) exercise, which was held on March 20–21, 2013, and 11 of the 15 IWWn nations participated in the event; Taiwan, which is not an IWWn member, was not included.”

The paper also concurs with Vice Premier Chang’s assessment that Taiwan is used as a testing ground for Chinese hackers. ” Mainland China, now notorious for conducting both cyber espionage and cyber theft around the world, uses the island of Taiwan for target practice to develop new cyber-theft techniques before moving on to larger targets like the United States,” the authors point out.

The report also emphasizes the unique role Taiwan could play in helping mitigate the impact of malicious Chinese activities in cyberspace:

“Taiwan is (…) uniquely positioned to assist the international community in protecting itself from cyber theft. If Taiwan were more integrated into the emerging multilateral cybersecurity organizations and exercises worldwide, the island would be able to share information on the new techniques that Mainland China is developing before others become victims of the same types of attacks themselves.”

Consequently, the paper concludes that, “Taiwan should be present at the start of any new working groups and related exercises so that it can contribute to the critical information-sharing practices that will be developed therein.”

Interestingly, Taiwan is not discussing cybersecurity with the People’s Republic of China. Vice Premier Chang notes: “I don’t think raising this issue is any help. You’re only going to let them know that you know what they’re doing. It’s only going to make them more cautious and more crafty.”