South Korean banks and broadcasters paralysed by hackers

The computer networks of three South Korean broadcasters and at least two banks were "paralysed" in what appeared to be a coordinated cyber attack on Wednesday. 

Authorities in Seoul were not immediately able to pinpoint the cause of the system failures and the national security office declined to speculate on where the attack may have originated, although suspicion immediately fell on North Korea.
"Reports have been made simultaneously, so we have dispatched investigators to the scene," an official in the National Police Agency's cyber-terrorism department told Yonhap News.
National broadcasters KBS, MBC and YTN reported shortly after 2pm that their computer networks had inexplicably come to a complete halt. Editing equipment had also been affected, affecting broadcasts. Shinhan Bank and Nonghyup Bank reported that their systems had also been affected at the same time.
Just hours earlier, officials of the South Korean intelligence agency accused Pyongyang of carrying out intensive cyber propaganda attacks against the South, designed to damage government policies and encourage social discord.
"The North seems to think of cyberspace as a way to circumvent South Korea's anti-communist National Security Law, and as a viable weapon to hurt Seoul by spreading disinformation that can weaken public support for policies," a intelligence source told Yonhap. 
To date, Seoul has identified 442 sites and organisations that are dedicated to attacking South Korean interests through the Internet, including Uriminzokkiri, the regime's main Internet-based media and propaganda site.
This week, the site has posted a new propaganda video depicting an attack on Washington and missiles destroying the Capitol Building.
Wednesday's attack coincides with meetings in Seoul between senior officials from South Korea and the US on ways to enforce United Nations sanctions imposed on the North in the aftermath of Pyongyang's recent nuclear test.
The US has imposed its on sanctions on the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea, Pyongyang's main foreign exchange bank, and four key officials identified as being responsible for the regime's ballistic missile programme.
Yun Byung-se, the South Korean foreign minister, on Wednesday called on his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, to work together to enforce the UN sanctions and underlined the important role Beijing plays in making sure that the sanctions are effective.
A study by the Korea Internet Security Centre this month identified a number of key targets that North Korean cyber attacks are likely to attack and called on the government and companies to be prepared for this form of provocation.
North Korea has been training a team of dedicated hackers since 1986, the report said, and there is concern that Pyongyang could unleash a simultaneous hacking attack against power utilities, traffic links, communications, the military and other state infrastructure.
There is particular concern about the South's nuclear energy facilities, which supply nearly 36 percent of the nation's electricity and could be susceptible to viruses.
The report also indicated that South Korea's KTX high-speed railway network is vulnerable as it is controlled from a single command centre. A failure in the operating system would mean trains could no longer control speeds, routes or signals and - in a worst-case scenario, the report warned - they could be re-routed so they collide, causing hundreds of deaths.
Air traffic is also at risk, while the South Korean stock market could be immobilised or see fake transactions being made, contributing to a crash in the market. 


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