Taiwan on alert amid fears it could be hit with second wave of global cyber attack

While government departments and hospital systems had so far been spared the chaos that struck Britain’s NHS, there were fears the full impact of the attack may only emerge after the weekend.

“Currently we haven’t received any response from the government agencies or our hospital systems. Currently they are not under attack by the virus,” said Howard Jyan, the director general of the government’s cyber security department.

There are fears Taiwan could be hit with the cyber attack when people return to work on MondayCredit: EPA

e said Taiwan’s institutions were ready for any major attack. “We can control the situation,” he said.

Multiple individuals reported on Taiwanese social media websites on Saturday morning that they had been affected by the malware.

Ross Feingold, a Taiwan-based political analyst who advises on Taiwan and Hong Kong political affairs, warned that full picture may not be known until Monday morning when officials returned to work.

“As the attack commenced on  Friday night Taiwan time, many organisations, whether government or private sector, will only know the true impact on Monday morning when personnel return to work, turn on their computers, and possibly click on malware and/or otherwise discover that the organisation is the victim of ransomware,” he said.

A map of the countries affected by the ransomware attackCredit: @MalwareTechBlog

“It once again demonstrates that Taiwan’s cyber security, as in other areas of its defences, requires ongoing investment in software, hardware, and personnel training so that they can identify suspicious emails in both Chinese and English,” he said.

Private security firms identified the ransomware as a new variant of “WannaCry” that had the ability to automatically spread across large networks by exploiting a known bug in Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

Taiwan is a self-governed democracy viewed by China as a renegade province that will eventually be reunited with the mainland. As a result it has little international diplomatic recognition, and it lives under the shadow of frequent political, military and high tech cyberattacks.

In March, global IT security firm, Trend Micro, named it as among the world’s biggest targets for ransomware. In the same month, nine schools in Hualien, in the east of the country, were extorted by hackers who demanded bitcoin payments worth almost $10,000.

However, experts say Taiwan’s experience of multiple attacks has allowed it to develop formidable local talent to combat it.

“Both government institutions in Taiwan and the private sector are actually world leaders in identifying and tracking and ultimately countering cyber threats because they’ve been at it for much longer than other countries,” said Michael Cole, a senior fellow at the China Policy Institute of the University of Nottingham.