DDoS Attacks Pepper Taiwanese Government Sites

Multiple distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks caused intermittent outages across several government websites in Taiwan yesterday following the much-publicized arrival of a senior US lawmaker.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip has been widely trailed by global media.

Although it is by no means the first such visit by a US politician of her seniority, and certainly does not break any international law or bilateral agreement, the visit has angered Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own.

Pelosi reportedly met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and reiterated Washington’s support for the democratic island nation of 24 million.

However, at the same time, reports suggested the websites of Taiwan's presidential office, foreign ministry and other government portals were knocked briefly offline after being flooded with traffic.

A foreign ministry statement seen by Reuters claimed that the websites of the ministry and the presidential office were hit with up to 8.5 million traffic requests per minute from a "large number of IPs from China, Russia and other places.”

A separate statement from a Tsai spokesperson on Facebook said the attack had funnelled 200 times more traffic than usual to the site. However, it was back up and running just 20 minutes later, it added.

The scale of the attacks indicates patriotic hacktivists rather than Chinese state hackers are behind the raids.

“While the PRC is more than capable of this type of attack, DDoS is fairly unsophisticated and somewhat brutish, and it's not a tool they are known to deploy,” argued Casey Ellis, founder and CTO at Bugcrowd.

“China has enormous population of very clever technologists, a large security research and hacking community, and a large government-sponsored team with offensive capability ranging from information warfare to targeted exploit development and R&D.”

President Xi Jinping has stirred up nationalist feeling in the country since coming to power in 2012, in a bid to cement the rule of the Communist Party and continue China’s ascent.

These efforts are aided by a formidable online censorship apparatus which scrubs any dissenting opinion from the internet in China, usually leaving only pro-party and nationalist rhetoric standing.

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