“Especially for submarine cables relayed via Taiwan, if there is a malicious disconnection, not only will global data transmission be interrupted, but it raises the risk of data getting hacked. The international community must be deeply aware of the consequences (of this scenario).”
--Yi-suo Tzeng (曾怡碩), chief of the Division of Cyber Warfare and Information Security (網路作戰與資訊安全研究所)
The likelihood of the PRC damaging or corrupting submarine cables and related infrastructure that connect Taiwan to the outside world should not be underestimated nor overlooked by the international community, says Yi-suo Tzeng (曾怡碩), chief of the Division of Cyber Warfare and Information Security (網路作戰與資訊安全研究所) in the January 2019 edition of the Defense Situation Monthly (國防情勢月報).
“To directly damage submarine cables in the seabed would pose a major challenge for PLAN. The PRC is more likely to try and damage the physical fiber cable connections at Taiwan’s four landing stations or go after the undersea cables laid at depths of less than 300 metres,” says Tzeng.
Another potential threat to Taiwan with implications for the broader cybersecurity and online community is whether the PRC will one day coerce ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to change the root domain of Taiwan from “.tw” to a subdomain or variant of “.cn”. The long arm of Beijing has already reached into the virtual world to force universities, airlines and other multinational companies and organizations to change their proprietary website information that identify Taiwan as a separate country; it means targeting domain-naming in cyberspace is not outside of the CCP’s likely hybrid warfare scenarios.
As with China’s poaching of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, an effort by Beijing to edit Taiwan’s root domain name, would not only hurt Taiwan in the international cyber community but, perhaps more critically, Tzeng notes, allow Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) hijacking by the PRC – in other words, data flowing in and out of Taiwan could be compromised.