Hackers in China have been targeting key individuals and organizations in Taiwan in order to obtain more information before the Taiwanese presidential and legislative elections that are set to take place next month. The Chinese hackers have been using phishing emails with the subject “DPP’s Contact Information Update” in order to attack the Taiwanese. Reports indicate that a Chinese state-supported group called APT16 has been conducting the attacks.
Additionally, hackers infiltrated the email accounts of staff members of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in order to change their security protocols and to write messages spoofing the account holders. One of the victims also said that the Chinese have been attempting to deliver malicious codes.
Taiwan is set to vote on January 16. According to opinion surveys, the DPP is highly likely to obtain a legislative majority. The party’s leader, Tsai Ing-Wen, is the favorite to win presidency, putting an end to eight years of nationalist Kuomintang rule.
To this day, China still considers Taiwan to be one of its provinces. China is particularly concerned of the position that the TPP has on Taiwanese independence, as well as the party’s advocacy of caution in its relationship with China.
China has also been targeting former United States diplomat to Taiwan William Stanton. The former diplomat has said that he has received several warnings from Google that his Gmail account might have been compromised from state hackers. Stanton served as the director of the American institute in Taiwan from 2009 to 2012.
The DPP has reportedly been under attack from hackers for months, but the frequency of the attacks has greatly increased in the past few weeks. As many as 50 DPP staff members have been targeted so far. The attacking emails asked recipients to open an attached file that would unleash malware onto their computers. Many of the targeted individuals proceeded to switch to new email accounts.
The attacks from China come just weeks after it was reported that the theft of data from the United States Office of Personnel Management was conducted by criminals, rather than state-sponsored hackers.