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Visit of US House Speaker Pelosi to Taiwan Has Little Impact on Network Infrastructures

I’m writing this from Taipei, where I have lived in peace for over 10 years. Sadly I learned that during this week, intermediate-range ballistic missiles (operated by China) have flown far above the capital of Taiwan and that five of them have landed in the waters of Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This provocative live-firing drill came as a direct response from China following Pelosi’s visit.

Internet infrastructures were only lightly affected due to Pelosi’s visit as highlighted below.

It started with her flight arriving from Malaysia. Smart enough, she didn’t fly with her delegation over the South China Sea, which is surrounded by Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and China. Instead, she took a three-hour detour and passed close to the eastern Philippines to reach Taiwan. At this time, there was still speculation if she would come to Taiwan or not. So during the prime time hours in Taiwan and China, just after dinner, everyone was able to track her flight and take bets if she would arrive or not. Flighradar24 tweeted that her flight with a US Air Force Boeing C40-C with callsign SPAR19 has broken two records. From take-off to touchdown, 2.92 million users followed at least a portion of SPAR19’s flight between Kuala Lumpur and Taipei, with 708,000 following as the flight landed. Kudos to whoever handles Flightradar24’s infrastructure to be able to handle the traffic!

Following her arrival, several public electronic billboards in Taiwan were hacked, showing defamatory messages against Pelosi. This included the largest convenience store franchise 7-Eleven as well as train stations. The simple fix of the operators was to unplug the screens and investigate further with its contractors regarding the origin of the attack.

Taiwan Railway issued a statement that its internal IT systems were unaffected and that rail services continued without problem.

Several government websites in Taiwan suffered DDoS attacks, and the presidential website was unreachable for about 20 minutes. A spokesperson of Taiwan’s President’s office said that the traffic was around 200 times above average. Websites of Taiwan’s National Defense Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and the country’s largest airport, Taiwan Taoyuan International, were also affected.

Hackers associated with the Anonymous hacking group launched attacks on several government websites in China, such as the Heilongjiang Society Scientific Community Federation website (www.hljskl.gov.cn) and a website of the Polar Research Institute of China (www.polar.org.cn). Website content was replaced with messages welcoming the visit of Nancy Pelosi. The images are still visible at Archive.org’s Wayback Machine.

Overall it is safe to say there was little impact on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Some services were affected by DDoS and hacking, but despite Flightradar24, no records were broken, and life continues peacefully in Taiwan.

By Thomas Kuiper, Internet Industry Veteran

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