National
Unification Ministry targeted in cyber attack
Published : Aug 9, 2011 - 19:33
Updated : Aug 9, 2011 - 19:33
South Korea’s Unification Ministry was the target of an attempted cyber attack, an official here said Tuesday, as the latest in the string of hacking attacks that Seoul suspects have been orchestrated by its northern rival.

Unidentified people tried to hack into the website of the Unification Ministry by planting malicious software in the email system of a lawmaker’s aide who frequently emailed the ministry, according to Kim Young-pil, an official at the ministry’s cyber security center.

But no damage had been caused, as the emails stored in the account of the lawmaker’s aide contained no crucial information and the aide was immediately asked by intelligence officials to change the password or close the account, Kim said.

Believing North Korea is operating a special computer-hacking military unit to collect secret information, Seoul has recently outlined a nationwide cyber security policy to cope with further attacks by Pyongyang and others.

In recent years, North Korea, which currently falls far behind South Korea in the field of information technology, has been operating a hacking unit under the direct instruction of its leader Kim Jong-il and heir apparent Kim Jong-un, according to intelligence officials.

Up to 48,000 cases of cyber attacks against government agencies have been detected from January 2004 through last year, the National Intelligence Service said.

The hackers this time used an Internet protocol address in China, Kim said.

“We are on constant alert as hacking attempts against government agencies have become somewhat routine now,” he said.

Another lawmaker’s aide had become the target of a hacking attempt as recently as June and Seoul’s third-most visited Web portal was hacked, compromising private information of some 35 million users last month.

Although they are not seen as a serious threat to Seoul at present, experts warn that the North’s cyber-terror abilities may be getting stronger at an alarming speed as hundreds of youngsters are trained to become hackers each year.

North Korea’s young hackers are mostly ordered to break into computer networks operated by South Korean government agencies, military and financial institutions to retrieve information, officials say.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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