Chinese hackers target Taiwan political party to spy on website visitors

Story highlights

  • Taiwan's DPP targeted by Chinese hackers, cybercrime group says
  • Website compromised and used to spy on visitors

Hong Kong (CNN)The website of a major political party in Taiwan has been targeted by Chinese hackers looking to spy on its visitors.

According to cybersecurity firm FireEye, the website of the Democratic Progressive Party -- whose leader, Tsai Ing-wen, was recently inaugurated as President of Taiwan -- was compromised and replaced with a spoofed site that collected data on users for several days last month.
    "FireEye believes this operation likely reflects continued efforts by China-based cyber espionage operators to collect intelligence related to the DPP as it moves Taiwan away from pro-mainland China policies," FireEye said in a statement.
    The DPP did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

    Frequent target

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    FireEye previously identified hacking group APT16, which has suspected ties to Beijing, as being behind attacks on Taiwanese media and the DPP in December 2015.
    The cybersecurity firm did not say whether the recent attack was linked to the same group.
    William Stanton, the former director of the American Institute in Taiwan -- the de-facto U.S. embassy on the island -- told Bloomberg at the time that his email accounts had also been targeted by "state-sponsored attackers."
    FireEye said it expects the most recent attack is only the tip of the iceberg: "it is probable that international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), diplomatic organizations and other global entities could also be affected by this campaign."

    Tense times

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    Relations between Taiwan -- officially the Republic of China -- and the People's Republic of China have been increasingly tense since the landslide election of Tsai, whose party has traditionally leaned in favor of formal independence from China.
    Last month, Tsai -- the island's first female president -- was subject to bizarre attack in state-run Chinese media, saying that as an unmarried, childless woman, she was unfit for her role.
    The op-ed was later deleted after intense criticism from commentators in Taiwan and China, though not before it sparked a debate over widespread sexism in Chinese state media.