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Friday, March 11, 2011

N. Korea launches electronic attacks on S. Korea

by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP)
Seoul confirmed Monday that North Korea has been trying since Friday to jam communications signals across the border, where the US and South Korea are holding a major joint military exercise.
Signals are being emitted from near the North's border city of Kaesong to disrupt navigational devices using GPS (the Global Positioning System) northwest of Seoul, the Korea Communications Commission said.

They caused minor inconvenience on Friday and Saturday, it said, while weaker signals are ongoing.

"Intermittent (GPS) disruptions are still continuing, although signals are weak," the commission said in a statement, adding that it was working with government agencies and security authorities to counter the jamming.

The South's defence ministry confirmed the intermittent failure of GPS receivers last week, but refused to give details for security reasons.

It was not clear whether the disruption caused problems to the war games.

The North's military operates dozens of bases equipped for an electronic war to disrupt South Korean military communications, the South's Yonhap news agency said.

The communist country has imported GPS jamming devices from Russia, while South Korea uses French equipment to disrupt or monitor the North's military communications systems, it said.

The South's then-defence chief said last October that the North was capable of interfering with GPS reception over a distance of up to 100 kilometres (60 miles).

He said this was seen as a fresh security threat, since it could potentially disrupt guided weapons such as missiles.

The jamming on Friday and Saturday coincided with cyber-attacks on the websites of about 30 key government agencies and financial institutions in South Korea. The origin of those "distributed denial-of-service" (DDoS) attacks is not known.

A DDoS attack often uses viruses planted in "zombie" computers. These seek simultaneous access to selected sites and swamp them with traffic.

The Korea Communications Commission said more than 77,200 zombie computers were mobilised for the latest attacks, and viruses had destroyed the hard discs of 114 of them.

But the damage was minimised by anti-virus software, it said.

In July 2009 a cyber-attack temporarily shut down 25 sites domestically and in the United States. The South's spy agency has blamed the North for the incident, although US officials reached no conclusion.

Kim Heung-Gwang, a defector who lectured on computer technology at a North Korean college, said Pyongyang might have launched last week's GPS jamming and DDoS attacks to test the South's systems.

"South Korea must make thorough preparations as North Korea may launch far stronger and unexpected attacks next time," he told Munhwa Ilbo newspaper.

China 'hacked' into secret S. Korea military files

Seoul (AFP) - Chinese computer hackers last June gained access to secret South Korean military files on a planned spy plane purchase from the United States, a Seoul lawmaker says. The hackers accessed information in defence ministry computers on the plan to buy unmanned Global Hawk aircraft, said Shin Hak-Yong, an opposition Democratic Party lawmaker and a member of parliament's defence committee.

"A government official reported the incident to me... the government has not raised the issue with China yet and is still debating how to handle it," Shin's spokeswoman quoted him as saying, confirming his comments reported in Monday's Chosun Ilbo newspaper. Seoul last year earmarked 45.2 billion won (40.4 million dollars) for the spy plane purchase following the North's alleged attack on a South Korean warship that left 46 sailors dead in March 2010. Cross-border tensions escalated further after Pyongyang's shelling attack on a frontier island that killed four South Koreans including two civilians in November.

The aircraft are capable of monitoring up to 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of the inter-Korean border. Japan is also considering buying the unmanned spy plane, Chosun said, unnerving China which fears the neighbouring nations could keep watch over its own territory. Ruling Grand National Party lawmaker Lee Sung-Hun, citing a government report, said 8,183 of 21,899 attempts last year to hack into South Korean government computer systems were made from China.

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