Taiwan’s two major fuel suppliers suffer computer hacks

CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s two major fuel suppliers, state-run CPC Corp., Taiwan and Formosa Petrochemical Corp. (FPCC), both reported computer hacks over the past two days, though their systems have since returned to normal.

FPCC said Tuesday that an employee reported irregularities on a computer in the morning, and the company responded by shutting down computers in all divisions.

After an inspection, FPCC found that the computer was infected with a virus, though no data was lost and company operations were not affected.

The company was on high alert because CPC had been hacked a day earlier, it said.

On Monday, CPC said its computer system had been infected with ransomware, which caused payment issues at gas stations.

CPC successfully re-launched its system later that day, and said it will monitor records to determine the origin of the attack.

Other than temporary payment issues, the company’s operations were unaffected by the hack, it said.

In response to the attacks, Taiwan’s Investigation Bureau said it had obtained a copy of the ransomware, which it is analyzing.

As these kinds of malicious software usually force people to pay ransom to a cryptocurrency account, the bureau will cooperate with international law enforcement agencies to establish the source of the attack, it said.

The bureau will also look into the hack at FPCC, it said, adding that so far there is not enough information to confirm whether the two hacks were connected.

According to Chien Sheng-tsai (簡勝財), a senior consultant at online security software developer Trend Micro Inc., the hacks are likely to continue until the hackers achieve their purpose.

In past ransomware cases, hackers repeatedly attacked their target in order to extort payment. If the first attempt fails, they launched a second or third wave of attacks, Chien said.

He suggested that companies build up multiple layers of protection for their computer systems and be aware of hacks that can happen through email or websites.

Chien also stressed the importance of a thorough investigation when a hack occurs.

Because hackers attack multiple computers at once, it is crucial to find out how they were able to obtain access and what information they have in order to prevent future hacks, he said.

Meanwhile, Powertech Technology Inc., one of Taiwan’s leading integrated circuit packaging and testing service providers, also said on Tuesday it had been hacked.

Some of the company’s computer servers in a factory in Hsinchu were infected by ransomware on Monday, and they worked with information security experts to remove it, Powertech said.

The affected servers have since been restored, and company data was unaffected, the company said.

According to national security officials, these attacks are not individual cases, but routine attacks on democratic countries like Taiwan intended to paralyze our systems.

In the past, the sources of such attacks have included countries like Russia and China, they said, and the most recent hacks could be trial runs before President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) inauguration on May 20.