A recent electronic glitch that paralyzed the high-speed rail (HSR) network for four hours last week, resulting in losses of millions of NT dollars, was not carried out by Chinese hackers, a senior National Security Bureau (NSB) official said yesterday.
The railway’s signal control system is a closed environment inaccessible to hackers, NSB Deputy Director-General Chang Kuan-yuan (張光遠) said at a legislative hearing on Taiwan’s defenses against cyberattacks by China’s military and Internet hackers.
“They [hackers] are not able to do that,” Chang said while answering questions raised by lawmakers on the Foreign and National Defense Committee.
Chang said that Chinese cyberattacks against Taiwan have shifted from targeting government institutions to civic organizations, Internet node facilities and traffic signal systems, which have less secure firewalls.
Those nodes are usually industrial computers that are not protected by firewalls or invasion detection systems, Chang said, adding that hackers can use the compromised computers as relay stations for their own purposes.
Such a practice constitutes an invisible threat, he said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) suggested at the meeting that restrictions be imposed to ban “rival” countries from taking part in bids related to the sale of information and communication products.
In Taiwan’s case, the rival means China.
In response, Hsiao Hsiu-chin (蕭秀琴), the director of the Executive Yuan’s Office of Information and Communication Security, said the government should safeguard information and communication security when engaging with all other nations, not just its rivals.
Hsiao said that while she agreed with the main principles of Tsai’s proposal, it was currently not feasible due to a lack of legal backing and the difficulty involved in imposing such a ban on specific types of products in a free market.
“Nevertheless, we will bring together relevant agencies to devise a more comprehensive information and communication security protection mechanism,” Hsiao said.
She added that despite the government’s preference for locally manufactured products, it could not prohibit private Chinese organizations from installing telecommunication apparatus.
In response to lawmakers’ concerns over the government’s use of Chinese telecommunications products, Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) and Chang reiterated that neither the ministry nor the bureau used Chinese-made network or communications equipment.
Calling on telecom providers to prioritize national defense over private gain, Chang said that these businesses should abide by national policies and endeavor to ensure the security of their networks to prevent cyberattacks from spiraling out of control.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) asked if a law was needed to demand telecommunication providers’ full cooperation in the event of an emergency or a national security threat.
Chen Hui-ying (陳會英), the director of the Executive Yuan’s Office of Homeland Security, said that the office was mulling drafting an act governing the protection of critical infrastructure and planned to allocate funding for research on the bill in the next fiscal year.