Major S. Korean government Web sites hit by suspected cyber attack, official says

By Hyung-jin Kim, AP
Wednesday, July 8, 2009

S. Korean Web sites hit by suspected cyber attack

SEOUL, South Korea — Suspected cyber attacks paralyzed Web sites of major South Korean government agencies, banks and Internet sites in a barrage that appeared linked to similar attacks in the U.S., South Korean officials said Tuesday.

The sites of 11 organizations including the presidential Blue House, the Defense Ministry, the National Assembly, Shinhan Bank, Korea Exchange Bank and top Internet portal Naver went down or had access problems since late Tuesday, said Ahn Jeong-eun, a spokeswoman at Korea Information Security Agency.

They appeared to be linked to the knockout of service of Web sites of several government agencies in the United States, though investigators are still unsure who was behind the attacks, Ahn said.

An initial investigation found that many personal computers were infected with a virus program ordering them to visit major official Web sites in South Korea and the U.S. at the same time, Korean agency official Shin Hwa-su said.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said that military intelligence officers were looking at the possibility that the attack may have been committed by North Korean hackers and pro-North Korea forces in South Korea.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it could not immediately confirm the report.

South Korean media reported in May that North Korea was running a cyber warfare unit that tries to hack into U.S. and South Korean military networks to gather confidential information and disrupt service.

The U.S. sites were hit by a widespread and unusually resilient computer attack that began July 4, The Associated Press has learned.

Yonhap said that prosecutors have found some of the cyber attacks on the South Korean sites were accessed from overseas. Yonhap, citing an unnamed prosecution official, said the cyber attack used a method common to Chinese hackers.

Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.

However, Shin, the Information Security Agency official, said the initial probe had not yet uncovered evidence about where the cyber outages originated.

Police also said they also haven’t found where the outages originated. Police officer Jeong Seok-hwa said that could take several days.

In the United States, the Treasury Department, Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and Transportation Department Web sites were all down at varying points over the holiday weekend and into this week, according to officials inside and outside the government.

Some of the South Korean sites remained unstable or inaccessible on Wednesday. The site of the presidential Blue House could be accessed, but those for the Defense Ministry, the ruling Grand National Party and the National Assembly could not.

Ahn said there were no immediate reports of financial damage or leaking of confidential national information. The alleged attacks appeared aimed only at paralyzing Web sites, she said.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry and Blue House said Wednesday that there has been no leak of any documents.

The paralysis took place because of denial of service attacks, in which floods of computers all try to connect to a single site at the same time, overwhelming the server that handles the traffic, the South Korean agency said in a statement.

The agency is investigating the case with police and prosecutors, said spokeswoman Ahn.


Associated Press writers Wanjin Park in Seoul and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

will not be displayed