Published on March 30th, 2021 📆 | 2968 Views ⚑0
Chinese cyberattacks on foreign ministry spike
By Lu Yi-hsuan
and William Hetherington / Staff reporter, with staff writer
The number of Chinese cyberattacks targeting Ministry of Foreign Affairs computer systems last year was about 39 times greater than the number of attacks in 2018, a source said on Monday.
There were an average of 2,100 attacks daily last year, and nearly 770,000 attacks in total, up from about 20,000 attacks in 2018, the source said, adding that information security officials have expressed serious concern about the situation.
Attacks have also become more sophisticated, they said.
“Last year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs began more closely monitoring all probes and scans of its systems, taking the stance that it would rather risk erroneously terminating a legitimate connection than overlooking a genuine attack,” the source said.
Its allocation of resources for tackling cyberattacks was the reason the ministry’s annual budget was increased last year, they said.
Its request of NT$297.59 million (US$10.43 million) for the “management of information security” was used to upgrade computer systems, including network equipment; lease a dedicated transnational backbone network; and establish an information security monitoring center, the source said.
Of the attacks the monitoring center detected last year, about 410,000 were scans and probes of the ministry’s computers and close to 150,000 were attempts to break into its e-mail system, they said.
“Since adjusting its approach to cyberattacks last year, the ministry is now analyzing every hacking attempt, and using that information to help it block such attempts more quickly,” the source said.
“This approach requires more effort, but the ministry is able to stop attacks before sensitive information is compromised,” they said.
The ministry is one of the most attacked government bodies, second only to the Presidential Office.
The ministry in the past few years has been encouraging Taiwanese to register personal information with it when traveling abroad, so that it can more easily provide consular assistance in emergency situations, the source said, adding that the information would be securely transmitted to its representative office in the traveler’s destination country.
However, Chinese hackers broke into the ministry’s secure e-mail system in 2017, stealing the personal information about 10,000 Taiwanese.
After the incident, the ministry secured its e-mail system, and has not experienced a similar incident since, the source said.
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