Chinese hackers 'targeting Taiwan's DPP and reporters'

A man types on a laptop computer in an arranged photograph.
A man types on a laptop computer in an arranged photograph.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

TAIPEI (AFP) - China hackers are targeting Taiwan's opposition party and journalists, security experts and officials said yesterday, weeks before a presidential election likely to usher in a Beijing-sceptic government. The move could be a ploy to get election-related news.

Dr Tsai Ing-wen of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has a massive lead in the opinion polls ahead of the January vote as the ruling Beijing-friendly Kuomintang faces a rout.

Taiwan government websites have frequently suffered digital bombardments from China in the past, usually during disputes between the two sides, according to the local authorities.

In a report published yesterday, US-based security company FireEye identified a China-based hacking group as sending "spear phishing" e-mail to Taiwanese journalists with the subject-line reading "DPP's Contact Information Update" earlier this month.

"Spear phishing" e-mail claim to be from senders the recipient knows, but are not.

"Given the timing of these attacks, the reporters targeted, and the information used as a lure, it is possible that the attackers are seeking information relating to the upcoming election and about the DPP in particular," said Mr Bryce Boland, chief technology officer for Asia-Pacific at FireEye.

Separately, officials have spoken of growing cyber attacks from China, despite improving ties since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008.

"We often received fake e-mail pretending to come from our colleagues, asking us to click some links or download some documents," said Ms Ketty Chen, deputy director of the DPP's international affairs department.

She said the e-mail purport to be from members of staff in various departments. "It's getting more frequent and we are asking our staff to heighten their vigilance during the election period."

A DPP official in charge of Internet security who spoke on condition of anonymity said the party is "constantly on guard" and conducts Internet security training for staff.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2015, with the headline 'Chinese hackers 'targeting Taiwan's DPP and reporters''. Print Edition | Subscribe