China attempted to flood online forums with negative and misleading information about the Han Kuang exercises, the Ministry of National Defense communications division said yesterday.
The comments were discovered and removed before they could have any effect, the division said.
The military has been widely praised for its performance during this year’s exercises, which likely caught the attention of hackers working for the Chinese government, the report said.
One military official, who declined to be named, said that Russian is adept at the strategy of using online posts to influence public sentiment, citing the conflict in the Ukraine and elections in France and Germany.
Chinese hackers used the strategy late last year when fake photographs showing Chinese jets flying over Yushan (玉山) were posted online, the official said.
The cyberattacks clearly demonstrate the challenge of maintaining a secure online environment and the National Security Bureau needs to be aware of the issue, the official said.
The five-day Han Kuang exercises ended on Friday.
The military’s media outlets posted video clips daily, as it has done during the exercises for several years.
This year’s use of panoramic photographs and aerial shots proved especially popular with online visitors, the official said, adding that these posts in particular were targeted by China’s hackers.
Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) praised the military’s media outlets and the Voice of Han Broadcasting Network, for their quick updates during the Han Kuang exercises.
The outlets also did a good job of handling the cyberattacks, Feng said.
The attacks came from anonymous users and appeared to be aimed at deflating officers’ morale, he said.
When such propaganda first began online, it was clearly from non-Taiwanese users, as the language was inconsistent with local usage. Later, Chinese hackers learned to imitate Taiwanese and demonstrated strong familiarity with local issues.
The efforts made to imitate Taiwanese users indicate the importance the Chinese place on influencing local public opinion.
Military media outlets’ family-themed videos, such as a series it made for Mother’s Day titled Steel Wife, also came under attack from hackers, the official said.
“No military countermeasures are needed. The public attack the hackers on their own — like a defense ministry of the people,” the official said.
However, the military is actively dealing with hackers through various countermeasures, the official said, adding that it “goes to battle every day.”
“Taiwan is fortunate to be a democracy with such free access to information. Although it is hard to manage at times, the public is getting better at distinguishing real posts from fake ones,” officials said.
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