South Korean prosecutors have accused their communist neighbor of hacking into the email accounts of dozens of government officials this year. North Korea has a 6,000-strong cyber army dedicated to attacking its rival.
A hacker group likely run by North Korea's government compromised the email accounts of dozens of officials, journalists and others in South Korea this year, Seoul officials said Monday, the latest cyberattack it blamed on its arch-rival.
Investigations showed a "suspected North Korea-operated group" attempted to hack into the emails of 90 people - including diplomats, defense officials and other ministries – in the first half of this year, the Supreme Prosecutors' Office said in a statement.
"The passwords of 56 accounts were stolen," the statement said.
The statement said this was done by a shadowy organization sending phishing emails to government officials, journalists and professors who specialize in North Korean affairs to try to trick them into giving away their passwords.
Authorities said the suspicious emails used a China-based IP address and a web-hosting service provider that was the hallmark of past North Korean cyber attacks.
North Korea arming for cyberwarfare
Previous North Korean cyberattacks failed to infiltrate computer systems. But in several cases, hackers destroyed hard drives, paralyzed banking systems or disrupted access to websites.
There was no immediate comment from North Korea. But the country's hacking capabilities have been steadily improving, said Simon Choi at Seoul-based anti-virus company Hauri Inc.
He said the North has carried out many more cyberattacks than is publicly known, making it difficult for South Korea to fend off all of them.
South Korean police said last week that North Korea was behind the recent leakage of personal data for more than 10 million users of the online shopping site Interpark.
The e-commerce site was reportedly unaware of the attack until July 11, when it was blackmailed with threats of the publication of the leaked data unless the company paid three billion won (2.4 million euros, $2.7 million).
Seoul authorities said the North's main spy agency - the Reconnaissance General Bureau - had organized the hack in a bid to earn hard currency as the country's economy is largely crippled by economic sanctions.
The Korean peninsula has been divided by the world's most heavily fortified border since the Korean War ended in 1953 with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. Earlier this year, North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test explosion and conducted a prohibited long-range rocket launch, prompting near-universal condemnation and increasingly tough UN sanctions.
jar/kl (AP, AFP)