In early April, the website of the Democratic Progressive Party was hijacked several times, diverting visitors to a fake website. California-based security company FireEye believes the attack, like many others plaguing Taiwan, was the work of mainland Chinese hackers.
“FireEye believes this operation likely reflects continued efforts by China-based cyber-espionage operators to collect intelligence related to the DPP as it moves Taiwan away from [mainland-friendly] policies,” said the company, as quoted by the South China Morning Post.
Among other telltale signs, the DPP website was monitored by the attackers and hit repeatedly, each time site administrators repaired the damage. Also, FireEye reported that similar hacking tools have been employed by Chinese espionage groups in the past.
According to Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communication, the intensity of cyber attacks from China has escalated to “near warfare,” including assaults on “defense, air traffic, and communication” systems. FireEye warned that international agencies, even non-governmental organizations, operating from Taiwan could also come under attack.
Relations with China have been especially tense since Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP became Taiwan’s president last month. The party is pro-independence, and Tsai promised during her campaign to seek closer relations with other nations to reduce economic dependence on China.
Her first full day in office was only May 23, but Bloomberg News quotes Taiwanese observers who are already counting the days until China blows its stack. Tsai’s outreach to Japan is particularly irksome to Beijing, due to both historical animosity between mainland China and the Japanese and because Japan and Taiwan are both opposed to Chinese territorial claims.
Chinese officials are even taking shots at Tsai because she is not married.
“As a single female politician, she lacks the emotional encumbrance of love, the constraints of family or the worries of children. Her style and strategy in pursuing politics constantly skew toward the emotional, personal and extreme,” said People’s Liberation Army analyst Wei Wexing, who sits on the board charged with managing China-Taiwan relations.
That is not just a sexist insult. Wei seems to be insinuating that Tsai is a reckless leader who could lead Taiwan into disaster because her lack of a husband and children gives her no stake in the future. Perhaps Beijing is wondering if a sustained campaign of online misery will convince the Taiwanese to abandon their support of Tsai and her independence agenda.