Taiwan Presidential Office spokesperson Chang Tun-Han has confirmed a cyber attack on Taiwan’s Presidential Office on Tuesday due to an alleged distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS), which also impacted other government websites.
Hours ahead of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, Chang Tun-Han, Taiwan Presidential Office spokesperson, confirmed the DDoS attack on the office in a post on Facebook, noting that the cyber attack was carried out by a group from outside Taiwan.
According to Reuters, the Chinese government threatened to take action in response to Pelosi's trip, and Taiwan is reportedly readying air raid shelters in anticipation of a potential Chinese attack.
According to Tun-Han, the Taiwan Presidential Office website experienced up to '200 times in increased traffic' than normal.
Other Taiwanese government sites were also down ahead of Pelosi's visit, according to NBC News, including the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the website of Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, where Pelosi's plane landed. As of publication, all three websites were up and running according to the news service.
Internet analysis at traffic monitoring group Kentik traced the cyber attacks on the three websites on Tuesday, describing the DDoS incidents as "effective even if they were not record breaking." However, Doug Madory, director of Kentik noted that overall internet traffic for Taiwan looked "pretty normal".
According to John Hultquist, the vice president of intelligence analysis at cyber security group Mandiant, the company was tracking an overall increase in Chinese threats against Taiwan, which included two "Chinese information operations" changing tactics to spread disinformation around dangers involved in Pelosi's visit.
"We anticipate that Chinese actors are also carrying out significant cyber espionage against targets in Taiwan and the US to provide intelligence on the crisis," Hultquist told Politico.
While he did not link the DDoS attacks to China, Hultquist warned that "on rare occasions, Chinese state actors have been linked to DDoS capability, destructive attack, and possible probing of critical infrastructure".
"Nonetheless, we believe China is capable of significant cyber attacks inside Taiwan and abroad," Hultquist said.
Speaking with Politico, James Lewis, the director of the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, downplayed the attacks, noting they were likely not tied back directly to the Chinese government, and describing them as "squeals of rage".
"DDOS means it is ‘patriotic hackers’, amateur Chinese hackers expressing their displeasure.
"Fairly normal stuff for Chinese netizens, doesn’t even need official encouragement," Lewis said.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC did not respond to a request for comment on the attacks.
The White House did not immediately respond to questions if the Biden administration is tracking cyber threats to Taiwan.