(Bloomberg) -- China is waging a growing number of cyberattacks on neighboring Taiwan, according to cybersecurity experts at Alphabet Inc.’s Google.
Google has observed a “massive increase” in Chinese cyberattacks on Taiwan in the last six months or so, said Kate Morgan, a senior engineering manager in Google’s threat analysis division, which monitors government-sponsored hacking campaigns. Morgan warned that Chinese hackers are employing tactics that make their work difficult to track, such as breaking into small home and office internet routers and repurposing them to wage attacks while masking their true origin.
“The number of groups in China that are performing hacking and trying to get into technology companies or get into cloud customers is huge,” Morgan said. “I don’t have the exact number, but it is probably over 100 groups that we are tracking just out of China alone.” The hackers are going “after everything,” including defense sector, government and private industry on the island, she said.
Google’s findings come as concerns have grown over the prospect of a conflict in Taiwan. The relationship between the US — Taiwan’s top military backer — and China has deteriorated in recent years over a wide range of issues including Taiwan, human rights and a race to dominate advanced technologies such as chips, quantum computing and artificial intelligence.
While the US doesn’t formally recognize Taiwan as a nation, it has vowed to help the island defend itself against what American officials say is an increasingly aggressive China. Beijing views Taiwan as a part of Chinese territory. Though at the moment, outgoing Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said during a summit on Wednesday, China is too “overwhelmed” to consider a major invasion of the island.
“Taiwan is facing mounting military intimidation, gray-zone campaigns, cyberattacks and information manipulation,” she said. “Taiwan remains clear eyed about the situation, and we continue to make our utmost effort to strengthen our defense capabilities and societal resilience.”
Read More: Taiwan Draws Clear US-Vs.-China Battle Lines in Key Election (2)
China’s and Taiwan’s foreign ministries didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment made outside of regular business hours.
Morgan said that North Korea and Iran also continue to pose “major” hacking threats and that Russia’s cyber focus has remained largely on Ukraine since it invaded the country in February 2022. Morgan spoke on the cybersecurity risks at an event Wednesday marking the launch of a new Google cybersecurity center in Malaga, Spain.
The new hub — called a “safety engineering center” — will house about 100 security experts from across Google and its subsidiaries such as Mandiant and Virus Total. The company said it wants to foster collaborations with European businesses and government officials to improve cyber resilience on the continent.
Google already has two safety engineering centers in Europe — one in Dublin, Ireland, that’s focused on tackling illegal and harmful content and another in Munich, Germany, that works on security and privacy engineering.
Kent Walker, Google’s president of global affairs, said the company chose Malaga for its new hub in part because Virus Total was founded there and in part because the Spanish government had adopted “pro-innovation” policies that have raised its digital profile.
--With assistance from Clara Hernanz Lizarraga and Iain Marlow.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.