July 12, 2009

North Korea Suspected Of Hacking

A South Korean news report said on Saturday that North Korea's military is behind a series of cyber attacks against South Korean and U.S. websites, which slowed down or disabled access by saturating the sites with traffic.

The attacks were on dozens of South Korean and American government and business sites and have left hundreds of personal computers crippled.

North Korea has been seen as the prime suspect of the attacks.

"The No. 110 lab of the North's Ministry of People's Armed Forces, which is a team of hackers, was ordered to destroy the South Korean networks," the South's National Intelligence Service was quoted as telling a closed-door parliamentary briefing.

The spy agency was quoted to say that the secret unit has added computer specialists to the team who have worked with the North's security apparatus in and outside the country, including in China.  This addition is to help wage systematic cyber warfare.

If North Korea is responsible for the attacks then this would mark an escalation in tensions that are already high from Pyongyang's nuclear test in May, ballistic missile firings in July and repeated taunts of long-time foes Seoul and Washington in its official media.

Internet access is denied to nearly everyone living in impoverished North Korea, which is a country that cannot produce enough electricity to light its city at night.  According to intelligence sources, leader Kim Jong-il launched a cyber warfare unit several years ago.

However, some analysts question the North's involvement, saying that it could be the world of industrial spies or pranksters.

The South's Communications Commission said that there have been sharp drops in traffic against the targeted sites by Friday night.  The attacks have showed signs of an end since the first large scale hit that took place on Tuesday.

The agency said 438 cases of personal computers have been destroyed by software that was used in the attacks.

The attacks saturated targeted websites with access requests generated by software that was planted on personal computers.  Inevitably, this overwhelmed the targeted sites and slowed down server response to legitimate traffic.