Taiwan: China's cyberarmy shifting target to think tanks, telcos

Taiwanese government claims China's cyberarmy now employs more than 100,000 people, has a yearly budget of more than US$2.71 million and is now focusing on think tanks and firms responsible for critical infrastructure.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

Taiwan's National Security Bureau (NSB) has released a report which states China's cyberarmy has grown and shifted to targets its think tanks and critical infrastructure.

Taiwan claims the Chinese cyberarmy now employs 100,000 people, has a budget of US$2.71 million per year.

According to The Taipei Times on Sunday, the report to be presented at a legislative hearing with the Ministry of National Defense and Criminal Investigation Bureau officials on Monday, states that since 2002, China had expanded its cyberarmy and now has more than 100,000 people working for it.

China also budgets more than NT$80 million (US$2.71 million) a year for the hackers, whose goals are to acquire as much control as possible over internal Internet systems before trying to steal or forge information, or paralyze Internet communications, the report noted.

The bureau also noted the Chinese military has shifted the focus of cyberattacks on Taiwan from government facilities and embassies, to civilian think tanks, telecommunication service providers, Internet node facilites and traffic signal control systems. These organizations have outsourced factories and businesses, less well-defended network nodes, factory-grade microcomputer controllers, cloud storage and traffic signal switches, it added.

The defense agency added it had also been a long-term and dedicated target of Chinese hackers and had been hit 3.4 million times last year, but the actions were reconnaissance rather than actual attacks.

The NSB said it takes cyberdefense seriously and has allocated funding over the past three years to purchase specialized equipment such as defensive software systems, as well as prioritizing the limitation and scanning of outgoing documents.

Telecommmunication providers should also prioritize national defense over financial gains, and telcos should try to strengthen and implement Internet security protocols in accordance with government policies, the defense agency said in a special note.

Taiwan military receive malicious e-mails

The NSB report comes amid an announcement on Sunday by Luo Shou, a Ministry of National Defense spokesperson, that some members of the military had received malicious e-mails, though there was no damage to the military's internal network or any information leaks, a separate report by The China Post noted.

The military members had received e-mails with subject lines related to Taiwan's Han Kuang military exercise which eventually proved to be embedded with viruses, Luo explained. The annual Han Kuang series of defense exercises, involving computer-aided war games, had its first phase in April and its second phase is slated for July 2013.

The e-mail had been sent a day after the ministry held a news conference on March 26, 2013 to brief the media on the details of the year's Han Kuang series of exercises. The e-mails had been found in the inboxes of the members' private e-mail accounts, and the ministry's informaiton security unit took immediate measures to deal with the issue, Luo said.

While it was difficult to identify the origin of such attacks, the ministry did not rule out the possibility that the malicious e-mails were part of China's cyberattacks on Taiwan, he added.

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