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Seoul suspects North Korea of cyber attacks

Text by Nathalie TOURRET

Latest update : 2009-07-09

A wave of cyber attacks has hit South Korea, blocking or impeding access to official and private websites, amid suspicions that North Korea or its supporters are to blame.

The cyber attacks began on Tuesday at 6 pm. For almost four hours in Seoul, access was blocked to the Web sites of the South Korean presidential office, the Defense Ministry, and the conservative daily newspaper Chosun Ilbo, amongst others. On Tuesday night, South Koreans were unable to connect to the White House or US State Department sites. US Government websites and users in the USA are also reporting problems, in what appears to be a coordinated attack.

The sites were frozen by a surge of connection attempts from virus-infected computers. According to the National Intelligence Service (NIS), South Korea’s secret service, these cyber attacks were launched from 20,000 private computers, most of them originating in the south of the peninsula. The extent of these attacks led the South Korean secret service to quickly conclude that they were not the work of average hackers.

The NIS suspects, rather, a larger-scale organized effort by neighbour North Korea.

New attacks occurred Wednesday, on the anniversary of the death of Kim Il-sung, father of current leader Kim Jong-il. North Korea has made a habit of provoking Seoul on this date, and these latest cyber attacks against South Korea, considered a leader in Internet technology, could be a new provocation.

Local media rushed to comment and speculate on this hypothesis. Daily newspaper Chosun, its own website a victim of the cyber attacks, wrote on Thursday that North Korea was likely training 500 to 600 hackers – though for now, there is no proof to back up this accusation.

Date created : 2009-07-09