Written by AJ Vicens
An apparent distributed denial-of-service attack shut down the Taiwan president’s website for about 20 minutes on Tuesday hours before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s historic visit, a presidential spokesperson said on Facebook.
An “overseas DDoS attack” hit the office around 5:15 p.m. local time, according to a Google translation of the post. Taiwan TVBS News Reporter Tingting Liu reported that the traffic was “200 times higher than on a normal day”.
A slew of other Taiwan-based websites also appeared to have intermittent issues on Tuesday, including the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. Both sites were sometimes unreachable mid-morning US time. The presidential site was up, but the English version showed an “OK” and nothing else.
Taiwanese officials and their US counterparts have been on heightened alert ahead of Pelosi’s visit, which marks the highest-ranking US official to visit the island in 25 years. The Chinese government sees Pelosi’s visit as an escalation of tensions between the United States and China, and has warned of “disastrous consequences” if the United States “mishandles the situation”, reported the Washington Post. .
A spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
DDoS attacks are relatively basic and do not require sophisticated tools or the resources of state-backed hackers to be successful. Small DDoS attacks are common and usually annoying, but larger attacks can lead to prolonged issues and inaccessibility.
Doug Madory, director of internet analytics at network monitoring firm Kentik, told CyberScoop on Tuesday that there were noticeable spikes in traffic to airport websites and other sites. The attacks were “effective, but not record-breaking”, he said. “As for the main tips of the Taiwanese Internet, everything seems normal.”
Johannes Ullrich, the dean of research at the SANS Institute, said in a blog post on Tuesday that available data on Tuesday’s DDoS activity suggested it was not “huge” and “something likely to happen.” reach of a few hacktivists put together”.
John Hultquist, vice president of intelligence analysis at Mandiant, said in a statement that the situation in Taiwan “has already led to cyber threat activity, some of which is apparent, such as DDoS attacks on websites in Taiwan. “.
Two Chinese information operations, the Mandiant leads “have shifted their accounts in recent days” to focus on Pelosi’s visit, he said, and “[we] anticipate that Chinese actors will also conduct significant cyber espionage against targets in Taiwan and the United States to provide intelligence on the crisis.