Chinese hackers prowling Taiwan’s systems: Chang

China’s attempts to hack Taiwanese databases did not halt regardless of the state of cross-strait relations in the past eight years, as Beijing epitomizes Sun Tzu’s (孫子) maxim in the Art of War (孫子兵法): “Know your enemy,” Premier Simon Chang (張善政) said in an exclusive report published by the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper).

Taiwan’s information security systems found traces of Chinese hackers every time a cross-strait negotiation event occurred over the past eight years, primarily in the systems of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Premier Simon Chang (張善政) said.

“Chinese cyberattacks have not been deterred by the calming of cross-strait relations as Beijing wishes to know what we are doing and our modes of thought, especially during negotiations,” he said.

The information obtained might not be used during the actual negotiation, but officials might be completely unaware that their limits or strategies are already known by China, Chang added.

While saying that Chinese probably do not have access to Taiwan’s policies and decisions on the draft cross-strait service trade accords and the draft cross-strait goods trade accords, Chang said that there is no way of being absolutely certain.

The policies of the incoming government might discourage Chinese from hacking if it has no plans to negotiate or interact with China, but the attacks could come in a different form, Chang said.

Chang said that cyberattacks came in two ways — one in which Web sites crash or get a denial of service or distributed denial of service (DDOS) message, and the other in which backdoors are opened into Web sites that allow hackers to steal sensitive information.

An index on Chinese hacking activity would depend on whether Taiwan’s Web sites are attacked openly — such as the Presidential Office’s Web site displaying the People’s Republic of China (PRC) national flag — which might indicate that more subtle hacking is also in progress, Chang said.

China’s efforts at bypassing Taiwan’s firewalls are mostly custom-designed and are extremely hard to detect, Chang said, adding that over the years, Taiwan has uncovered many different methods that are being noticed by other nations.

Chang said that after his dealings with information security, he does not harbor impractical illusions toward China and is of the mind that it is, for the most part, unfriendly toward Taiwan.

Chang said he counts the abolition of regulations on the establishment of the information security center as one of the greatest regrets during his term as premier, adding that the incoming government should seek to retain these regulations and staff.

He said that the staff at the center were the most experienced in dealing with Chinese hackers and they would be of invaluable service to the nation.

When asked whether Taiwan should be on alert in terms of corporations and the Chinese market, Chang said Taiwanese companies are even more concerned than the government over their goods or technologies slipping out of their fingers, adding that all the government had to do was hear what the companies and corporations are saying.

Chang also said that it is highly likely that Taiwanese Web sites would be targeted over the recent World Health Assembly issue, as China might be “afraid that we would say things we should not.”