Two ways China could paralyze Taiwan with cyberattacks

Taiwan's submarine fiber cables, .tw root domain vulnerable to Chinese attacks

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(Internet image)

(Internet image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The two ways China could launch a cyberattack against Taiwan include the cutting of undersea cables and the redirection of Taiwan's root domain, according to a report by a Taiwanese think tank.

In the latest newsletter by the government-funded think tank the Institute for National Defense and Security Research titled "Defence Situation Monthly," Acting Division Director Tzeng Yi-suo warns that China could seek to cut Taiwan's internet access off from the rest of the world by either severing submarine fiber cables or by manipulating Taiwan's .tw root domain.

In the first scenario, Tzeng said that China could damage the undersea cables where they connect to the country at four key stations, including Toucheng in the northeast, Tamsui and Bali in the north, and Fangshan in the south. Tzeng says that there are 12 cables which connect to eight countries through these stations.

Tzeng said another possibility is that Chinese subs could sever the undersea cables at a depth of less than 300 meters on the continental shelf. However, he said that that the cutting of connections at the four main stations would be easier and therefore more likely.

One deterrent Taiwan would have to this would be the automatic identification system (AIS), which would notify the military the moment a cable had been compromised.

In the second scenario, Tzeng said that China could use the same strategy it has employed to bully airlines to force the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to change Taiwan's .tw root domain to a subdomain or variant of China's .cn root domain. This would enable China to change the Autonomous System Numbers associated with networks in Taiwan to launch Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) hijacks, thereby compromising data flow and opening the door to eavesdropping, disinformation, and viruses.

Tzeng said that the solution to stave off this second scenario would be for Taiwan's government and society to initiate the support of the international internet governance community. Tzeng said the key would be to take advantage of the multi-stakeholder nature of the community and not let government officials have the final say. "Hopefully, this can counter the pressure of China's sharp strength," said Tzeng.