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Cyber attacks on SKorea came from 16 countries

Posted: 2009-07-10
From: Mathaba
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AFP -- This week's cyber attacks on South Korea are believed to have been mounted from 16 different countries but North Korea was not among them, Seoul's spy agency was quoted as saying Friday.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) told legislators the attacks were tracked to 86 Internet protocol addresses from 16 countries including the United States, Japan, China and Guatemala, the lawmakers said.

The lawmakers, quoting information from the NIS given in a closed briefing, said North Korea was not among the 16 countries.

"The NIS suspects North Korea or its sympathisers are behind the attacks but it says it cannot be sure until the ongoing probe is completed," Park Young-Sun, a lawmaker of the opposition Democratic Party, told journalists.

The agency based its suspicion on a statement issued by Pyongyang last month warning of cyber warfare and the fact that many of the targets were websites operated by conservatives, the lawmakers said.

The North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, lambasting Seoul over its plan to participate in the US-led exercise "Cyber Storm," said on June 27 that Pyongyang was "fully ready for any form of high-tech war."

Cyber Storm is a drill against cyber attacks.

A third wave of cyber attacks hit South Korea on Thursday evening, blocking or impeding access to at least seven Web sites operated by the country's largest lender Kookmin Bank, government and media organisations.

Several Seoul-based portal sites also reported that their mail services underwent temporary access disruptions.

"The volume of attacks in a third round of cyber attacks was small and the impact was rather meagre," Park Cheol-Soon, a senior official of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), told AFP.

Many users whose computers had been hijacked for attacks had vaccine programmes downloaded on their machines, he added.

The US State Department said its website also came under attack for a fourth day Thursday. The White House and Pentagon websites were among US government entities targeted earlier this week.

Hackers have planted viruses in thousands of personal computers in South Korea and overseas.

The so-called distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack involves computers being programmed to swamp certain US and South Korean websites at selected times.

The attack used an army of malware-infected computers known as a "botnet" in a bid to paralyse US and South Korean websites by overwhelming them with traffic.

US experts were divided on whether the communist state was behind the ongoing attacks, an assault that highlighted the vulnerabilities of the Internet.

"I don't think it was North Korea, but there's really no proof either way," said Johannes Ullrich, chief technology officer for the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center, which monitors cyber threats.

"The way this particular malware was written it looks like one guy wrote it in his basement over a weekend," he said. "But maybe that's what North Korea's cyberwarfare unit looks like."

"It could be anybody," he continued. "It could be a South Korean. It could be a Chinese, whoever had motivation and the tools to do it. There's really nothing that points to a nation state."

Joe Stewart, director of the counter-threat unit at SecureWorks, agreed, telling Computerworld "it looks like every other 'bot' (botnet) I see created by an intermediate programmer."

Around a dozen websites in the United States and another dozen in South Korea were among those targeted in the attack, which began on Sunday.

Spokesman Ian Kelly said the State Department's website, state.gov, continued to come under attack on Thursday but not in "high volume".

He said Thursday he had "no information" about any North Korean involvement.
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