As Chinese cyber attacks pour in, a bipartisan coalition of Congress members is calling for a boost to Taiwan’s cyber defense. The proposed Taiwan Cybersecurity Resiliency Act would task the Department of Defense with training Taiwan’s IT forces, conducting exercises and getting involved with active defense measures.
The proposal reflects the current state of tension over the ultimate fate of Taiwan, with various reports from intelligence analysts placing a Chinese military invasion at anywhere between 2024 to the end of the current decade. While that aspect has been limited thus far to a recent increase in military maneuvers near the island, China’s hackers have battered Taiwan for years with both incursion attempts and regular waves of propaganda.
US eyes enhanced cyber defense commitment to Taiwan
It is still not clear to what degree the US military would directly respond if China attempted to invade Taiwan, but members of Congress are looking to at least strengthen the involvement in repelling and disrupting Chinese cyber attacks in the region. The official policy of the US is to provide arms to Taiwan for its defense but to not formally recognize its independence, but the world of cyber defense exists to at least some degree in a different realm with different rules.
The proposal comes as US military forces in the region look to streamline operations and coordinate communication between the country’s various allies, and also to similarly address cyber defense among those that also find themselves targeted by Chinese cyber attacks. The US State Department has characterized China as “bullying” its neighbors in the region with military and economic coercion.
Deterrence of Chinese cyber attacks might involve hacking back
The proposed cyber defense bill has Democrat and Republican sponsors in both the House and Senate, reflecting a more general bipartisan attitude toward strengthening Taiwan’s position and taking more aggressive action against Chinese cyber attacks.
The move would also have implications for US cyber defense, as Taiwan is a noted “testing ground” for new tools and techniques that Chinese APT groups then deploy against US companies and government targets. But in day-to-day terms, the biggest issue in Taiwan appears to be influence campaigns. Chinese agents regularly infiltrate chat apps and message boards, posting innocent and helpful content about things like shopping or sports for months before “activating” with subtle attempts to propagandize for the government. Chinese cyber attacks in the region are also often simply a matter of disrupting and taking down websites for a period of time.
The new cyber defense bill would have the Department of Defense engage in both increased training of Taiwan’s own personnel and a more active role in directly disrupting Chinese cyber attacks. The bill’s language indicates a priority emphasis on Taiwan’s military assets, and that US forces may directly engage with Chinese hacking assets to cut down on the estimated tens of millions of attacks hitting the island each month.