Seoul and Pyongyang ‘engage’ in cyber warfare

Seoul and Pyongyang ‘engage’ in cyber warfare

SEOUL - The Associated Press
Seoul and Pyongyang ‘engage’ in cyber warfare

Employees work at a monitoring room in Seoul after computer networks at two major South Korean banks and three top TV broadcasters were paralyzed. AP photo

Computer networks at major South Korean banks and top TV broadcasters crashed en masse yesterday, paralyzing bank machines across the country and prompting speculation of a cyber attack by North Korea.
Screens went blank at 2 p.m., with reports of skulls popping up on some computer screens, the state-run Korea Information Security Agency said a strong indication that hackers planted a malicious code in South Korean systems. Some computers came back online more than 2 hours later.

Police and South Korean officials couldn’t immediately determine the cause. But experts said a cyber attack orchestrated by Pyongyang was likely to blame. The rivals have exchanged threats following U.N. sanctions meant to punish North Korea over its nuclear test last month.

The shutdown appeared to be more of an inconvenience than a source of panic. There were no immediate reports that bank customers’ records were compromised. It also didn’t affect government agencies or networks essential to the country’s infrastructure, such as power plants or transportation systems. South Korea’s military said it was not affected by the attack. Still, it raised worries about the overall vulnerability to attacks in South Korea, a world leader in broadband speed and mobile Internet access.

Seoul believes the North runs an Internet warfare unit aimed at hacking U.S. and South Korean government and military networks to gather information and disrupt service. Seoul has blamed North Korean hackers for several cyber attacks in recent years.