Taiwanese Election Spurred Increase in Cyberattacks by China

Taiwanese Election Spurred Increase in Cyberattacks by China

Todd Faulk Todd Faulk
Published on: June 25, 2024 Senior Editor

A cybersecurity research firm has discovered that Chinese intelligence dramatically increased its cyberattacks against Taiwanese targets in the months before and after the Taiwanese presidential election in January. Insikt Group said it uncovered nearly 100 cyberattacks against Taiwanese government, academic, commercial, and think tank organizations between November 2023 and April 2024.

The cybersecurity firm said RedJuliett, a threat actor believed to be an arm of Chinese intelligence, compromised the IT systems of 24 organizations and attempted to penetrate the systems of at least 70 more by exploiting known vulnerabilities in firewalls and VPNs used by the targets.

Insikt said the targets included universities, religious organizations, de facto embassies operating in Taiwan, and sensitive technology companies with ties to the Taiwanese government. Insikt’s report did not name specific organizations.

In addition to the large number and type of organizations, the targets spanned nine countries, including the United States, South Korea, and several in Southeast Asia and Africa. This represented a significant expansion of RedJuliett’s area of operations, according to Insikt. The largest number of cyberattacks occurred in Taiwan itself.

Relations between mainland China and Taiwan have deteriorated since the January election. Lai Ching-te, the new president, regards Taiwan’s sovereignty as paramount and has said Taiwan will not be subordinate to China. The Chinese government, for its part, has deemed Lai as a “separatist” and has stepped up economic, military, and diplomatic pressure on the island.

Meanwhile, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson denied that the Chinese government was behind the cyberattacks described in the Insikt Group report.

“I don’t know the specifics of what you mentioned, but I can tell you that it’s not the first time the company you mentioned has fabricated disinformation on so-called Chinese hacking operations. There is absolutely no professionalism or credibility to speak of in what the company does,” the spokesperson replied.

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