At a glance.
- Chinese hackers heavily target Taiwan’s Elections infrastructure.
- The White House looks to relax education requirements for federal cyber jobs.
Chinese hackers attempt to disrupt Taiwan elections.
The News: Before the Taiwanese general election this past Monday, Google Cloud’s cyber threat intelligence firm, Mandiant, warned Taiwanese officials of a “substantial volume of espionage operations” taking place. Mandiant emphasized that these attacks were being led by Chinese hackers looking to sabotage Taiwan’s government, technology, and critical infrastructure. In recent months, these attacks have followed a recurring trend of a growing number of attacks against Taiwan, spiking over 3,370 percent from the previous year, according to Cloudflare.
The Knowledge: These attacks ahead of the election this past Monday were aimed not to stop the election or steal information but rather to execute an “embarrassment campaign,” according to former FBI Executive James Trugel. Trugel emphasized that these attacks were designed to make the existing Taiwanese government look incompetent ahead of the election with the hopes of dissuading voters from electing Lai Ching-te, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate. Chinese spokesperson, Liu Pengyu, countered these allegations by stating that they were “clearly disinformation,” and that the Chinese “oppose and combat cyberattacks of any kind.”
However, these attacks came right before a highly contentious election that had both the Chinese and Western nations paying significant attention to the Cross-Strait. With the election of the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) candidate Lai Ching-te, many should expect these tensions to continue to rise as the DPP has long supported Taiwanese independence. These cyber-attacks reflect growing concerns related to the region's security as well as the continuing trend of external interference in elections across the world.
The Impact: While Taiwanese elections may not appear to be outwardly relevant to many, the impact of this election reflects growing tensions that could have serious long-term ramifications for the global economy. Taiwan’s economy is the backbone of many technological goods as the small island creates a large portion of the world’s 5G modems, Wi-Fi chips, and core processors. For example, in an iPhone, roughly thirty-six percent of the phone is created within Taiwan. Organizations and consumers should be aware of the dependencies that already exist between the world and Taiwan and understand the economic ramifications that would occur if conflict began to best prepare themselves and mitigate potential risks.
Taiwanese economic importance has only continued to grow in recent years making many nations increasingly dependent on its manufacturing power, enabling its political parties to renew calls for independence from China. As tensions have continued to rise, many are concerned about the possibility of conflict. These concerns were heightened further after these most recent cyber attacks emulated Russia’s actions just before the war in Ukraine began. A conflict in this region would impact the global economies, as it is currently estimated that any conflict between Taiwan and China would wipe out 6.7% of the US economy in the first year alone.
White House aims to ease education requirements for cyber jobs
The News: Last week, the White House announced its intentions to relax existing education requirements for federal cyber jobs. National Cyber Director Harry Coker stated that he is working with the Office of Management and Budget to remove the requirements of having a four-year degree from some federal cyber job postings. Coker highlighted that these requirement changes are being used to boost requirements efforts as well as remove barriers to entry for women and minorities within the cyber field. Coker also mentioned that later this year, his office will continue these efforts by carrying out a series of hiring sprints to fill vacant cyber positions.
The Knowledge: With the White House’s announcement to reduce these educational job barriers, these efforts are aimed to directly address the estimated half a million cyber job vacancies that exist within the federal government. By filing these vacancies, the White House is looking to combat and reduce the impact of the growing cyber threat.
As cyberattacks continue to increase in volume yearly, the Biden administration believes that filling these vacancies will increase both economic development and security gains. This recent announcement follows the administration’s strategy document, released last year, that created a four-pronged approach to boosting cybersecurity within the nation through:
- Improving cybersecurity education
- Equipping Americans with cybersecurity skills
- Growing the general cybersecurity workforce
- Growing the federal cybersecurity workforce
The Impact: With the White House making this shift in cyber job recruitment, the administration is emphasizing the importance of its fourth goal in its strategy document. With this move, people who are looking to enter the cyber workforce, but do not have a traditional four-year degree, should look for federal job postings over the coming months to take advantage of these posting changes.
Additionally, for those looking to improve their cyber education, Coker also pointed to colleges that have been designated by the National Security Agency as centers for academic excellence in cybersecurity, to gain the necessary technical skills needed to succeed in these roles. Over the coming months, people should expect the administration to continue to roll out new policies that will aim to execute the other goals set out in its strategy document.
Other Noteworthy Stories:
What: The University of North Carolina (UNC) published its 2023 report that focuses on the current landscape of state-level technology policy developments in the US.
Why: With this report, UNC has published a detailed account of each US state’s current technology policy positions. This report highlights their key findings, such as a rise in AI legislation and a greater focus on child safety. Parties interested in their state's current legislation should take the time to read about what their current legislative positions are.
What: The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reached its first settlement with Outlogic, a Virginia-based data broker, regarding data tracking.
Why: With the US FTC reaching its first settlement with Outlogic, the data company, formally known as X-Mode Social, agreed to stop selling sensitive location data that helps track people’s locations. Before settlement, the lawsuit alleged that Outlogic violated consumers' privacy for several years by selling their data to advertisers, researchers, retailers, and government contractors without permission. With this settlement, the FTC has indicated its interest in beginning to hold data companies increasingly responsible for mishandling data.
What: The US Department of Energy (DOE) is focusing its efforts on research around AI, quantum computing, and semiconductors
Why: The US Department of Energy’s, Helena Fu, has been put in charge of researching technologies that both could stimulate innovation as well as produce serious risks. In a recent interview, Fu mentioned that the DOE will be focusing its research efforts on AI, quantum computing, and semiconductors. The DOE also emphasized that it will be focusing a significant amount of effort on AI to understand and utilize its capabilities as well as manage growing concerns around the technology. With this new initiative, the DOE will be working with other departments to create guardrails that will shape future regulations. While no direct policy has been implemented, people should expect the government's interest in controlling these developing technologies to continue to grow.
What: The US House of Representatives Financial Services Committee forms an AI working group
Why: Last week the US Financial Service Committee formed a bipartisan working group focused on AI. The AI working group is tasked with exploring “this technology’s potential, specifically its adoption in our financial system” and discovering ways to use it to “foster a more inclusive financial system.” The group will be led by Representatives French Hill and Stephen Lynch. This working group complements similar efforts taking place across the US federal government to directly address the growing concerns around AI as well as to find ways to harness its capabilities across the various business sectors. Readers should expect the federal government to continue to investigate the technology to find ways to utilize its capabilities safely and securely.