Taiwan launches hackathon to help make itself an impregnable fortress against cyber criminals from China as attacks proliferate

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 September, 2015, 7:30am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 September, 2015, 7:30am

Taiwan will host its first cyber security hackathon on-site in partnership with the Ministry of Economic Affairs starting next month, as the island seeks to shield itself against rising online attacks.

Over 1,000 hackers are expected to take part in online qualification for the HITCON Capture the Flag (CTF) contest to be held in Taiwan. The final will take place in early December and offer a top prize of US$10,000.

A combination of geopolitics and a wealth of technology firms in Taiwan make the island a major target for malicious cyber attacks.

READ MORE: Hong Kong news site, political party in Taiwan hit by tools leaked in attack on Hacking Team

In late 2014, Taiwan’s premier blamed China for attacks against civil and government websites. 

The allegations followed media reports a year earlier that Chinese hackers were using the island, which China views as a renegade province after it split from the mainland when the Communists took over in 1949, as a testing ground before attacking the United States.

In response, Taiwan set up a comprehensive internet shield against hackers.

“Taiwan seems highly susceptible to cyber attacks, but this potential vulnerability also offers Taiwan a vantage point as it helps create a wealth of cybersecurity data and a talent pool of hackers,” organisers HITCON said.

CTF contests pit teams of hackers against each other to complete set tasks to gain points or to attack and defend computer networks to collect points.

The number of cyber security hackathons is growing, with prizes as high as US$2 million on offer in a bid to develop talent to help defend computer systems before attacks happen.

Cybersecurity is expected to be high on the agenda for Chinese President Xi Jinping meets his US counterpart Barack Obama in Washington later this week to cap Xi first official state visit to the United States.

US officials have repeatedly claimed Chinese hackers are responsible for the theft of commercial information from American businesses. The country is also suspected to be behind a massive breach early last year at the US Office of Personnel Management. 

The breach was made public this summer. On Thursday, it was revealed that, in addition to troves of other data, some 5.6 million fingerprints had been hacked – five times more than previously thought. 

China has denied the allegations.

HITCON’s hacking team came second in the CTF contest at the United States DEF CON hacking conference in 2014. It placed first at a similar event in China also last year.