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Koreas' sites hacked on war anniversary

By Ling Yuhuan (Global Times)

09:02, June 26, 2013

A number of South and North Korean official websites were the target of cyber attacks by unidentified hackers on Tuesday, the anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.

Experts said any ungrounded speculation as to who might be responsible would exacerbate the strained tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

"The government can confirm a cyber attack by unidentified hackers that shut down several sites including the Blue House," the South Korean science ministry was quoted as saying by AFP in a statement, adding that the country has raised its five-stage national cyber alert from level one to two. The alert level was later further upgraded to three due to the scope of the attack.

The websites of a total of four government agencies, 11 South Korean media outlets, and one political party were put out of service due to the attacks, said Park Jae-moon, director of the South Korean Science Ministry's IT Strategy Bureau.

"It's like an endless fight between spears and shields," Park was quoted as saying by AFP.

However, Park added that it was still too early to speculate who might be behind the cyber attacks.

Meanwhile, a number of North Korean websites and networks were also shut down Tuesday as of 4 pm, including the North's ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun and the Choson Sinbo, Yonhap reported.

Right after the hacking of the South Korean websites, which occurred around 9:30 am local time, the website of the Blue House showed messages in red letters, including one praising North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Yonhap reported.

Messages posted later on the affected South Korean websites claimed the hackers belonged to the international "hacktivist" group Anonymous.

However, the claim was refuted by Anonymous on its official Twitter account, but the group confirmed it had succeeded in attacking a number of North Korean media outlets on Tuesday, including the Rodong Sinmun and the official Korean Central News Agency.

The hacking occurred on the 63rd anniversary of the start of the Korean War, which started on June 25, 1950.

North Korea's military intelligence agency has been blamed by the South for a hacking attack that occurred on March 20, which seriously affected South Korean financial services, operations at three banks, and networks of TV broadcasters KBS, MBC and YTN.

Pyongyang was also held responsible by Seoul for hacking attacks in 2009 and 2011, in which the South's government agencies and financial entities were targeted.

Although the coincidence might prompt speculation that North Korea was responsible for the hacking attacks this time, experts say it is also likely that some other countries are using the hacking to frame North Korea.

"After the North recently expressed their intention to resume the Six-Party Talks with related countries, it is both irrational and unnecessary for Pyongyang to irritate its southern neighbor in such a way," Lü Chao, a researcher at the Liaoning Academy of Social Science, told the Global Times.

"The hacking is more likely an individual's action or even a prank, but we cannot rule out the possibility that some other countries are using the attacks to frame North Korea," he said.

Cui Zhiying, dean of the Center for Korean Peninsula Studies at Tongji University in Shanghai, told the Global Times that speculating without adequate evidence at the moment would add another heavy blow to the already strained relations between South and North Korea.

North Korea has not yet issued any statement to either confirm or comment on the hacking attack.

The hacking occurred just one day before South Korean President Park Geun-hye's scheduled visit to China. Lü said that the leadership of the two countries are very likely to seize this opportunity to call for cooperation to crack down on cyber attacks.

Agencies contributed to this story

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