Taiwan to build Starlink-based internet, implicating space cyber attacks in midst of China tensions

Starlink Constellation

Source: https://www.wsj.com/video/series/wsj-explains/how-chinas-military-drills-could-choke-off-taiwans-internet/

The conflict between Taiwan and China can be traced back to the Chinese Civil War, which ended in 1949. Recently, the tensions have resumed quite significantly with China conducting military exercises surrounding the island. Many analysts have drawn parallels between this conflict and that of between Russian and Ukraine.

Taiwan is a major global player in the electronics and IT sectors, which naturally requires the island to rely on internet connectivity for its economy. The Taiwanese government had declared its internet connectivity as a concern of national security. Currently, Taiwan relies on sea-based cable lines to connect itself to the rest of the world. This week, a Wall Street Journal article explained many regions around the island in which China has been conducting military exercises overlap areas of major undersea internet cables. For example, a Japanese ship was unable to repair a damaged cable line between Japan and Taiwan due to the Chinese military exercises.

In defense of its internet connectivity, Taiwan is starting to build an internet infrastructure based on the Starlink constellation. A Taiwanese science delegation had recently visited the Space headquarters in promoting this effort. This move may have significant implications to space cybersecurity. As many analysts draw parallels to the Russia and Ukraine conflict, Taiwan may face space based cyber attacks. Specifically, the Viasat KA-SAT network attack comes to mind as an example. The Viasat incident was originally intended by Russia to disrupt Ukrainian military command and control, but due to its network’s dual use, many civilian applications were affected. Given the rapid expansion of Starlink, we could see a similar spillover effect, should the Chinese military engages similar attacks. This spillover could affect civilian targets of many nations outside of Taiwan, including the US.