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CYBER WARS
S. Korea tracks cyber attack to China, North still suspect
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) March 21, 2013


Cyber attack hits US-based NKorea rights group
Washington (AFP) March 20, 2013 - A US-based group monitoring human rights in North Korea said Wednesday it was hit by a cyber attack that disabled its website for several hours.

The incident at the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea occurred at the same time as a major attack targeting South Korean TV broadcasters and banks.

Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the group, said he learned early Wednesday about the attack, which changed the welcome page to identify the site as "Hitman 007 -- Kingdom of Morocco."

"Our website had indeed been hacked, and a lot of our publications had been taken out. Fortunately we were able to work with the hosting company from the backup to fully restore the website."

Scarlatoiu said he had no information on the origin of the attack but that "all circumstantial evidence" points to North Korea.

"We deal 100 percent with North Korea human rights," he told AFP. "We don't deal with the Middle East, we don't deal with other regions."

Additionally, he said the attack occurred at the same time as entities in South Korea were hit. He noted that the attackers removed reports highlighting rights abuses in the North, including the increase in population of a political prison camp.

In Seoul Wednesday, the state-run Korea Internet Security Agency said computer networks at three TV broadcasters -- KBS, MBC and YTN -- as well as the Shinhan and Nonghyup banks had been "partially or entirely crippled."

LG Uplus, an Internet service provider, also reported a network crash.

There was no immediate confirmation of who or what was behind the attacks but the main finger of suspicion is likely to point at Pyongyang.

The incidents came days after North Korea accused South Korea and the United States of being behind a "persistent and intensive" hacking assault that took a number of its official websites offline for nearly two days.

The North was believed to be behind two major cyber attacks, in 2009 and 2011, that targeted South Korean government agencies and financial institutions, causing their networks to crash.

China says its cybersecurity under threat
Beijing (UPI) Mar 19, 2013 - A Chinese national computer monitoring center says the country's cybersecurity has come under increasingly severe threats amid a variety of safety risks.

The National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team Coordination Center in Beijing reported hackers hit 16,388 web pages in China -- including 1,802 government websites -- in the past year, an increase of 6.1 percent from 2012 and 21.4 percent from 2011.

CNCERT said it identified 22,308 phishing websites last year targeting the country's growing online population, which has grown to 564 million, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday.

Most of the phishing websites are running on foreign severs, with the majority of them based in the United States, the report said.

China, for its part, has come under criticisms from the United States, which has alleged the Chinese government was behind hacking activities targeting U.S. sites.

China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said last week the country hopes to discuss the issue with the Unites States.

"China resolutely opposes hacking of any form and would like to communicate with the United States on cyberspace security in a constructive way," she said.

South Korea said Thursday it had sourced a damaging cyber attack on its broadcasters and banks to an IP address in China, fuelling suspicions that North Korea may have been responsible.

Previous cyber attacks blamed on North Korea -- including one last year on the computer network of the conservative JoongAng newspaper in Seoul -- have also been tracked back to Chinese sources.

Internet security analysts in South Korea believe official North Korean hackers learned many of their skills in China and operate from there.

The regulatory Korea Communications Commission (KCC) said Wednesday's attack had used the Chinese IP address to access the targeted computer networks and generate malware that crashed their systems.

"The Chinese IP may trigger various assumptions," said Park Jae-Moon, the KCC director of network policy.

"At this stage, we're still making our best efforts to trace the origin of attacks, keeping all kinds of possibilities open," Park said.

The attack on Wednesday completely shut down the networks of TV broadcasters KBS, MBC and YTN, and halted financial services and crippled operations at three banks, Shinhan, NongHyup and Jeju.

The KCC responded by raising its cyber attack alert to "caution", the third highest level on a five-notch scale.

Under a "caution" alert, the government triples its monitoring workforce and organises a government-wide investigation team to launch on-site inspections.

The Defence Ministry raised its own cyber attack alert, although military networks were not affected.

"For geopolitical reasons, it's convenient for North Korea to use Chinese IP addresses for such attacks," said Choi Yun-Seong, a security expert at the state-run Korea Information Technology Research Institute (KITRI).

"However, domestic and foreign hackers can use them as well, so we cannot say for sure North Korea was behind this," Choi told AFP.

China, North Korea's main patron which has angrily denied being behind a spate of cyber attacks on US interests, said the incident in South Korea showed the importance of a collective response to IT threats.

"China would like to work with other countries based on mutual respect and mutual trust in constructive cooperation in this field," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Wednesday.

Wednesday's attack came days after North Korea accused South Korea and the United States of being behind a "persistent and intensive" hacking assault that took a number of its official websites offline for nearly two days.

It also coincided with heightened military tensions on the Korean peninsula, following Pyongyang's nuclear test last month.

In testimony last year to the US congressional Armed Services Committee, the commander of US forces in South Korea, General James Thurman, said North Korea was employing "sophisticated computer hackers" trained in cyber attacks.

"Such attacks are ideal for North Korea" because they can be done anonymously, and "have been increasingly employed against a variety of targets including military, governmental, educational and commercial institutions", Thurman said.

North Korea was particularly blamed for cyber attacks in 2009 and 2011 that targeted South Korean financial entities and government agencies.

Those attacks were so-called distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) which overload a site with data causing it to crash, and are relatively simple to carry out.

Wednesday's coordinated assault was more sophisticated, using malware that can wipe the contents of a computer's hard disk as well as drives attached to or mapped to the infected computer.

The malware then forces the infected computer to reboot, which it cannot do because its files have been wiped, rendering the device useless.

Russian computer security company, Kaspersky Lab, said the style and substance of the attack did not necessarily point to a state actor.

"Obviously, the attacks were designed to be 'loud' -- the victims are broadcasting companies and banks," the company said on its website.

"This makes us think we are not dealing with a serious, determined adversary but hacktivists looking for quick fame," it added.

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CYBER WARS
S. Korean TV networks, banks suffer suspect cyber attack
Seoul (AFP) March 20, 2013
The South Korean military raised its cyber attack warning level Wednesday after computer networks crashed at major TV broadcasters and banks, with initial suspicions focused on North Korea. The state-run Korea Internet Security Agency said computer networks at three TV broadcasters - KBS, MBC and YTN - as well as the Shinhan and Nonghyup banks had been "partially or entirely crippled". ... read more


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