South Korea Under Cyber Attack

North Korea suspected of carrying out major cyber attack against Seoul-based banks and broadcasters
March 20th, 2013

SEOUL – Three South Korean broadcasters and two banks were hit by a major cyber attack this afternoon, in an apparently successful attack that has rendered system-wide computer networks unusable since 1400KST (0100EST).

KBS, MBC and YTN were all hit by the attack, as were Shinhan and Nonghyup banks, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported. KBS staff member Luke Cleary tweeted a picture of his laptop screen, apparently showing a wiped operating system:

Although no evidence has thus-far been presented, a statement from the presidential office said they were investigating the possibility of North Korean involvement in the attack, and the military has upgraded its “info surveillance status” in response. Reuters, however, reported that a holding page from a hacking group know as the “Whois Team” appeared on an LG-owned website (see below video).

[youtube id=”BAz0cQfr3F4″ width=”600″ height=”400″]

“The circumstantial evidence points towards North Korea, but that’s also the perfect cover for someone wanting to attack South Korea and cause mischief,” North Korea Tech blogger Martyn Williams told NK NEWS.

“The ‘Whois Team’ hack could be something unrelated. If the attack on LG was a web-based hack, it would seem different to the others. With these types of attacks you never really know unless someone claims responsibility, and even then they could be grandstanding.”

North Korea claimed last week to have come under cyber attack, after its limited portfolio of websites went offline for several hours. North Korean state media blamed U.S.-based hackers for the attack.

The U.S. has started flying B-52 bomber sorties on the Korean peninsula, in order to send a “clear message” to Pyongyang, sources in South Korea were reported as saying this week.

North Korea has promised “strong military counter-action” if any further sorties are made, the KCNA said this morning.

The rise in recent tensions follows exercise “Key Resolve”, the second stage of U.S. – ROK military exercises amid the ongoing “Foal Eagle” joint-operation that sees some 10,000 South Korean forces training alongside 3,500 American personnel. The drills are labelled as primarily defensive in nature, but North Korea views them as a threat to national security, and dress rehearsals for a full invasion of the DPRK.

Both Pyongyang and Seoul have labelled each other’s rhetoric as ‘provocative’, and their own military exercises as ‘defensive’. North Korea has declared the peace agreement that ended the Korean War to be “void”, and has threatened preemptive nuclear strikes on both Japan and the U.S.

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About the Author

James Pearson

James Pearson (@pearswick) was the NK News Seoul Correspondent.