From 7-Eleven to train station, cyberattack hits Taiwan over Pelosi visit

TAIPEI/BEIJING—When U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi infuriated Beijing this week with a brief visit to Taiwan, the welcome she received from government officials and the public began to show up elsewhere. It was in contrast to another kind of message. island.

On Wednesday, at several branches of a 7-Eleven convenience store in Taiwan, the TV screen behind the cashier suddenly switched to display the words “Warlord Pelosi, get out of Taiwan!”

The island’s largest 24-hour convenience store chain has been hit by an unprecedented amount of cyberattacks against government websites belonging to Taiwan’s presidential office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense, as well as infrastructure such as train station screens. was a person Protest against Pelosi’s visit.

Although the city of Taipei has not directly blamed the Chinese government for the attack, it said the attacks on government websites, which paralyzed the site’s operations, originated from addresses in China and Russia. It also said the company whose display was modified was using Chinese software that could contain backdoor or Trojan malware.

Taiwan’s Minister of State Audrey Tandigital said the volume of cyberattacks against Taiwanese government agencies on Tuesday before and during Pelosi’s arrival exceeded 15,000 gigabits, 23 times the previous daily record.

Taiwan’s cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng said Wednesday that the government has stepped up the security of critical infrastructure such as power plants and airports, and raised cybersecurity vigilance levels across government agencies. On Thursday, he said no related injuries have been detected so far.

“Government agencies are very cautious. In the last few days, from a public security perspective, we have set up three layers of government security and communication mechanisms. is beneficial,” he said in a briefing.

Theater, Not Threat

Pelosi’s visit sparked a furious reaction from the Chinese public and from Beijing, which said travel to the autonomous islands it considers its territory violates its sovereignty. It launched missiles around Taiwan as part of unprecedented military exercises.

A cybersecurity research organization said the attack on Taiwan’s government website prior to Pelosi’s visit was likely by Chinese activist hackers, not by the Chinese government.

The hacker group APT 27, which has been accused by Western officials of being a Chinese government-backed group, has claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s cyberattack on Taiwan, with Pelosi ignoring China’s warnings and visiting on YouTube. He said it was done to protest what he did. Also in Taiwan, he claimed to have shut down 60,000 internet-connected devices.

A spokeswoman declined to comment when asked about the cyberattack in Taiwan at a regular briefing of China’s foreign ministry on Thursday. China’s Cyberspace Administration, which regulates the country’s internet, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Experts say the cyberattack, coupled with China’s live-fire drills, will give Taiwan’s leaders a preview of what an invasion from China might look like.

In recent years, several reports from Taiwanese and US think tanks have suggested that in the event of a military attack on Taiwan, China could first launch cybersecurity attacks that would undermine Taiwan’s key infrastructure, such as its power grid. emphasizes the high .

Still, Eric Warigora, a cyber threat intelligence specialist at Accenture, said the latest so far looks “more theatrical than a threat.” He said past attacks, such as the campaign that forced several financial institutions in Taiwan to suspend online transactions, were technically more sophisticated and damaging.

“Certainly there have been much more malicious cyberattacks,” he said.

Sarah Wu and Eduardo Baptista