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(LEAD) Key Korean Web sites sustain renewed cyber attacks

All Headlines 23:06 July 09, 2009

(ATTN: UPDATES with latest development in paras 2-3, 6-10)

SEOUL, July 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Thursday came under a third round of cyber attacks, with the nation's key government and private Web sites reporting temporary paralyses or severe access disruptions, government and industry officials said.

At least seven Web sites operated by government and media organizations, including Kookmin Bank, the Ministry of Public Administration and Security's electronic government site, the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo and leading portal Naver, reported access delays and failures starting around 6 p.m., said the officials.

Several Seoul-based portal sites also reported that their mail services underwent temporary access disruptions Thursday evening, apparently due to the so-called "distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack."

DDoS attacks refer to a situation in which a multitude of infected computers attack a single target, thereby causing denial of service for legitimate users of the compromised site.

Kookmin Bank, a leading state-funded lender, said it was forced to shut down its Internet banking site for about 30 minutes until 6:30 p.m. after the site came under the DDoS attack from unidentified hackers.

"A third round of cyber attacks was begun Thursday evening, but the nation averted the crisis without much confusion thanks to sufficient advance preparations," said an official at the state-run Korea Information Security Agency.

"The government will continue to work to minimize damage from the latest cyber attack through closer cooperation with relevant institutions and companies," said the official.

The Korea Communications Commission also briskly moved to contain damage to key government Web sites and asked the nation's key Internet service providers to restrict Internet access by personal computers contaminated by viruses.

Kim Hong-sun, chief of leading computer virus vaccine firm Ahn Lab, said it is difficult for now to forecast how long the cyber attack will persist.

"There is no clear information on the pattern and timing of further cyber attacks. It is difficult to precisely predict the outlook," said Kim.

Beginning Tuesday, the DDoS attacks overwhelmed major Web sites in South Korea and the United States, virtually taking them off-line. Unidentified hackers began their initial attacks at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, blocking Internet users from accessing 26 Web sites, including the official site of South Korea's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and 14 government and private Web sites in the U.S.

Amid suspicions that North Korea may be behind the recent wave of Web site outages, the unidentified hackers staged their second cyber attack on Wednesday evening.

Ahn Lab warned earlier that a third wave of cyber attacks was expected to hit government and private Web sites in South Korea Thursday evening.


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