Thu, Apr 23, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Hack breaches Taipei government computers

SECURITY:The city plans to install more monitoring equipment and tighten usage of messaging app Line to avoid similar incidents, an official said

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

A large amount of information was leaked in a hacking breach of city computers, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said yesterday.

The mayor said that a city investigation into a breach of city secretariat computers last week had revealed a “troublesome” leak of substantial information.

Taipei Department of Information Technology Commissioner Lee Wei-bin (李維斌) said a list of city department heads along with confidential information about them had been compromised.

The leak could complicate management of the city’s extensive use of messaging app Line groups by potentially allowing hackers to assume the names of secretaries to “friend” commissioners and their staff, he said.

Special caution would need to be taken over management of the groups to verify the identity of all their members, given that anyone within the groups could add new members, he added.

He said that to avoid further breaches, the department intended to install additional monitoring equipment to detect unusual activities on city systems.

A “backdoor” that infected the city secretariat’s computers was undetected using existing antivirus software, he said.

The city would review the existing divisions between computer systems among the city’s departments, secretariat and the mayoral office, he added.

In response to criticism from Taipei city councilors that the city government’s extensive use of Line groups creates security risks, Lee said there was an implicit tradeoff between perfect security and administrative efficiency.

Because Ko was already used to using the Line software and has already introduced it extensively within the city government, it would be costly and time-consuming for the city government to switch to using messaging software designed and hosted domestically, he said.

He added that the department was moving to impose clearer standards for Line usage.

In addition to current requirements that the service not be used for sending classified information, the city’s Line groups would be required to have designated members responsible for policing membership lists, he said.

Lee dismissed city councilors’ concern that a lack of rules requiring the preservation of Line records would allow the city government to hide important information from council purview.

He said Line conversations were confidential in the same manner as telephone calls or private discussions within the city government have been, while final decisions by the city government would still be recorded in official documents that are available to councilors.

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