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South Korea escapes major cyberattack

March 5, 2011

UPI, 4 March 2011: South Korea’s government reports little damage or disruption to its computers after a series of cyberattacks.

Nearly 30 institutions and organizations were affected by distributed denial-of-service attacks that overload a site with data causing the site to break down or stop functioning.

The attackers reportedly injected malware into two peer-to-peer file-sharing Web sites, the National Police Agency said.

Government ministries — including defense and unification — the National Assembly, a military headquarters, sites for U.S. armed forces in South Korea and major banks were among those hit, an official from the president’s office said.

The two biggest Internet portals of Naver and Daum, as well as major commercial banks such as Kookmin, Woori and Shinhan were targeted.

“There was a DDoS attack but no damage was done,” the official said.

South Korea’s financial regulator the Financial Services Commission and an online stock trading system were shut down but for only a few minutes.

AhnLab, a major security solution provider founded in South Korea in 1995, said it expects more attacks in the next several days. AhnLab said up to 11,000 personal computers were infected by the malware.

“For the PC to not be infected by the malicious code, one must have the latest security patch for the computer operating system and must update the vaccine program, along with checking the system in real time,” Kim Hong-sun, chief executive of AhnLab, said.

The attacks are similar to those that targeted South Korean Web sites in July 2009 which were believed to have come from North Korea but never confirmed.

Right after the latest attack, South Korea’s state Communications Commission issued an alert for computer users.

“The number of zombie PCs, which are infected by malware and taking part in the attack, currently totals up to 11,000, much smaller than the 115,000 counted during the 2009 cyber attack,” a KCC official said. “However, we’re aware and making preparation measures since the number is likely to increase.”

In April, North Korea, often suspected of being the originating country for cyberattacks, reportedly developed an operating system called Red Star to monitor user activity, even though the use of personal computers by the public isn’t as widespread as in South Korea, South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute said.

“Due to few applicable programs available, Red Star will not even be easily distributed in North Korea,” the STPI said. The Linux-based Red Star operating system uses a popular Korean folk song as its startup music.

In July 2009, the South Korean Defense Ministry announced it would spend more than $20 million to improve security for its computer systems after that month’s cyberattacks.

The Cyber Terror Response Center, part of the National Police Agency, set up a team to investigate the cyberattacks. Other departments, including the military, also launched investigations.

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