How cyber-attacks on Taiwan are hurting global business


In February, something like a scary story happened to 14,000 people living on the Matsu islands in the East China Sea. These islands are part of Taiwan. Suddenly, their internet stopped working, and even when Taiwan tried to fix it, only 5% of the internet speed returned. 

 There’s worry that this could happen again, especially because tensions between Taiwan and China are increasing. People are also concerned about what would occur if the 14 underwater cables connecting Taiwan to the world were damaged unexpectedly. 

 But it’s not just the loss of the internet that’s a problem. Cyber-attacks, like computer tricks to harm others, happen a lot in Taiwan. A study found that Taiwan faces 15,000 cyber-attacks every second. This affects important industries like making things, information technology (IT), and moving goods around. Taiwan makes 90% of the world’s important microchips, which are tiny parts of devices like phones and computers. If cyber attacks are successful, they could cause big shortages worldwide, like what happened to the people in Matsu who lost their important communication links. 

Is the Escalating Threat of Cyber Attacks on Taiwan’s Businesses Putting Global Industries at Risk?

Every day, businesses in Taiwan face the risk of cyber attacks. The problem is getting worse, with an 80% increase in attacks in the first half of this year compared to the same time in 2022. Big companies in Taiwan, especially those in important industries, are regularly targeted by harmful software that tries to trick them with fake emails or dangerous website links. These tactics can lead to hackers stealing a company’s information and demanding money to give it back. 

Paul Bantick, who works at a big insurance company, says the attacks are increasing not only because of problems with China but also because cybercrime is becoming more common and profitable. It’s easier for more people to get involved in this kind of illegal business. 

This is a big problem for businesses all over the world. Richard Meeus, who works with technology and security, explains that the attacks on Taiwan’s manufacturers are meant to cause problems in the production of goods. Hackers use this to force companies to do what they want. These attacks can stop production, causing companies to lose money and face delays. The biggest worry is that this could seriously affect the supply of important parts, like microchips, used in many products we use every day, including things in healthcare. 

Could Cyber Attacks on Taiwan Cause Shortages in Everything?

Every day, there’s a risk that cyber attacks on Taiwan could lead to shortages in many things we use. Bindiya Vakil, who is the CEO of a company that manages supply chain risks, thinks these attacks could disrupt the supply of almost everything we use daily. 

 And the timing is not good. Many businesses are still recovering from a problem in 2020 when there weren’t enough computer chips. This happened because supply chains were messed up, and more people wanted technology during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

 James Williams, who works with IT security, says the pandemic showed how big of a problem it is when supply chains are messed up. Companies had to stop making things for a while or even close permanently. Just in the car industry, companies lost $61 billion (about $190 per person in the US) in sales in 2021 because of this. 

 Even now, many industries like car and electronics makers are still having problems because of the shortage of computer chips. If there are more delays, some companies might not survive. While it seems like things are getting better with the supply of computer chips, Vakil thinks there might still be shortages until 2024. So, businesses should be ready for more delays. 

Protecting Businesses from Cyber Attacks: Simple Steps to Take

To shield themselves from cyber attacks in Taiwan, businesses should take steps to reduce risks, says Vakil. This includes things like finding different suppliers, using smart technology solutions, and having good plans. She also emphasizes the need for advanced monitoring to make supply chains stronger against cyber threats. 

 While finding new suppliers can be tricky, it makes businesses stronger. For example, Nvidia, a big tech company, got attacked in 2022, and companies relying only on them faced more problems than those with different suppliers. 

 Bantick suggests that companies connected to Taiwan must quickly fix security issues, control who can do what on their systems, regularly save important information securely, and most importantly, have plans in case something goes wrong. He reminds us that cybersecurity is crucial for all parts of a business, especially manufacturers like those in Taiwan, as hackers often target the weakest points. 

Securing Taiwan Against Cyber Threats: What’s Being Done?

Taiwan is working hard to make sure it’s safe from cyber attacks. President Tsai Ing-wen even started a cybersecurity research institute to help with this. But because the risk is still there, some big technology companies are moving their factories to different places. 

 Shien-quey Kao, who works for Taiwan’s national development, says that big businesses are choosing other locations to keep their operations safe. One important company, Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, is building a factory in the US, and it should be ready in 2024. 

 Businesses that get ready for cyber-attacks are in a better position. They can handle the attacks and any problems in the global supply chain better. If not, it could be like what happened to the people in Matsu – thousands of workers might not be able to work or use the technology they need for their jobs. That would be a tough situation. 

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