Taiwan’s Presidential Website Down After Cyberattack as World Anticipates Pelosi’s Visit

Taiwan’s Presidential Website Down After Cyberattack as World Anticipates Pelosi’s Visit
Flightradar24 has been suffering heavy loads since users started tracking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's flight from Malaysia. (Screenshot: Flightradar24)

With about 5,000 aeroplanes in the sky right now, all the world is seemingly focused on just one. That includes Chinese, Taiwanese, and U.S. leadership, as well as internet users across the world and, apparently, hackers.

Reuters first reported based on an anonymous source that the Taiwanese presidential website suffered a cyberattack early Tuesday. The report further claims that the site was brought back online shortly thereafter, but when Gizmodo tried to load pages on the presidential site early Tuesday — from both the U.S. and through two separate VPNs — all we got was a single line of text: “OK.”

In a Facebook post, Taiwanese presidential spokesperson Chang Tun-Han said that on Tuesday evening (Taipei Standard Time) the site was hit by an overseas DDoS attack, further claiming that attack traffic was 200 times that of normal days, but “normal operations have resumed within 20 minutes.” If true, the attack doesn’t seem anything akin to the full might of China’s hacking capability.

What showed up on browsers when trying to access the Taiwanese presidential webpage. (Screenshot: Gizmodo)What showed up on browsers when trying to access the Taiwanese presidential webpage. (Screenshot: Gizmodo)

Though everything is not really “OK” during this morning of heightened tension. The world is watching California Democrat and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s tour to several U.S. allies, including Singapore and Malaysia, with gritted teeth. Pelosi is also anticipated to stop by in Taiwan for an official meet-and-great. Anonymous sources also told Reuters that Chinese warplanes were buzzing like hornets on the dividing line between the Taiwan Strait Monday. Other Chinese warships are making “provocative” moves toward the official dividing line. The planes are gone, but the ships remain.

More unnamed sources have told outlets like the Financial Times that Pelosi’s visit with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen was supposedly scheduled for Wednesday, though neither Pelosi’s people nor Taiwanese officials have dared make any public mention of the meeting. She’s also supposedly meant to meet with activists who have complained of Chinese human rights record.

But as of now, thousands are getting minute-to-minute updates of the path of Pelosi’s plane. Flight tracking app Flightradar24 tweeted early Tuesday that over 300,000 people had been tracking the flight designated #SPAR19. The plan left Malaysia Tuesday afternoon, Malaysia Time. The demand for flight updates was so heavy it actually started to crash the Flightradar24 site.

With so many unknowns about the anticipated visit, Chinese social media was practically boiling over with resentment toward America. Business Insider reported Tuesday that the popular Twitter-like Chinese social media app Weibo saw most of its trending topics surrounding Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. The leading hashtag about U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s comments over Pelosi’s anticipated visit reportedly saw over 600 million views in six hours.

Most users were reportedly upset about Pelosi’s “provocation” and the possibility of war with the U.S. over Taiwan, a country long-claimed by Beijing, which has walked an ever-thinning tightrope to capitulate to China’s demands and still maintain some sense of sovereignty. Of course, it’s best not to derive any real sense of national temperature checking based on the comments of even a few million, especially considering China’s total population of 1.4 billion.

But Taiwan has been aware of the ever-present threat of military invasion. In April, the country released a military invasion survival guide for its citizens.