Friday, July 10, 2009

North Korea believed behind DoS attacks

South Korean officials are investigating an apparent cyber attack that has paralyzed websites of major government agencies, banks and Internet service providers.

The websites belonging to the presidential Blue House, South Korea's defence ministry and Shinhan Bank are among several sites that have been hit in suspected attacks that began at around 6 p.m. local time on Tuesday this week. Access to Naver, a leading Internet portal, has also been disrupted.

In a statement released by South Korea's Communications Commission, they said the attacks consisted of "massive harmful traffic to specific sites causing access slowdown or disablement." The commission said that national institutions, banks and media sites were among the apparent targets.

The attack was also reported to have targeted, The South Korean site of online auctioneer Ebay, also appeared to have been disrupted by the cyber-attacks.

Ahn Jeong-eun, a spokeswoman for the government's Korea Information Security Agency, said the attacks appeared to be linked to an ongoing and unusually resilient attack against government websites in the United States, including sites for the US treasury and the Secret Service.

Attacks against US sites began on July 4, the US Independence Day holiday, and continued to affect access to several sites well into Tuesday.

Ahn said that preliminary investigations seemed to show the attacks were aimed only at paralyzing access to the sites, rather than hacking into secure networks or stealing information.

Access to some websites appeared normal by Wednesday this week, though the South Korean president and defence ministry remained unobtainable.

The attack involves so-called Denial of Service or DoS attacks in which a large number of computers all attempt access to a single website at the same time. The increased traffic overwhelms servers and effectively shuts down the website concerned.

There has been no indication as to who may be behind the South Korean attack, but it comes just weeks after the country's military announced it was setting up a special cyber warfare command to fend off attacks from North Korea and other countries.

According to a report released in May, South Korea's military networks experience an average of tens of thousands of hacking and virus attacks every day. While some fingers have pointed at North Korea, there has been no substantive proof they were behind the attacks. Denial of Service attacks are often undertaken by placing net-bots onto other unsuspecting users' computers before triggering them to launch in simultaneous attacks. So far authorities have said attacks came from at least 16 different countries.

Recent years have seen governments around the world ramp up investment in cyber warfare and cyber defence as part of their security and military programmes. Last year, in the weeks leading up to the war between Russia and Georgia, Georgian government and corporate websites began to experience a sudden string of "denial of service" attacks. Russian government officials denied involvement, but after investigating domain names and website registration data, a group of independent Western computer experts concluded that the Russian security and military intelligence agencies were involved.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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