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(5th LD) Transition team retracts announcement on N. Korea's suspected hacking attempts

All Headlines 18:56 January 17, 2013

(ATTN: UPDATES with claim about hacking attack on outgoing president's transition team in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Jan. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's presidential transition team on Thursday retracted an earlier announcement that North Korea is suspected of hacking attacks on their computer server, blaming miscommunication for the wrong statement.

"Security authorities had asked the administrative office of the transition committee to advise reporters to use antivirus programs and change passwords often as the press room is vulnerable to outside hacking attempts," spokesman Yoon Chang-jung said.

"There was some misunderstanding in the course of delivering this," he said.

Yoon said that the press room is considered at a higher risk of coming under cyber attacks as Internet connections are provided there via a commercial network while committee offices are hooked up to a more secure network of the government.

The spokesman declined to say if there was any hacking attempt at all.

Earlier in the day, a committee official said that intelligence authorities conducted a security checkup on the committee and found signs that North Korea may have attempted hacking attacks on the computer server handling the Internet for the press room.

The official asked reporters to run antivirus programs and change passwords more often.

The main opposition Democratic United Party lambasted the transition team.

"The transition committee is out of its mind ... Did they say without sufficient examination that North Korea was involved in hacking on the transition committee?" the party said in a statement.

"It is so shameful that this kind of thing happened at the transition committee of the Republic of Korea," it said, adding that the false announcement caused the public to be concerned that important information might have been leaked.

North Korea has been accused of a series of hacking attacks on South Korea in recent years.

On Wednesday, the National Police Agency said Pyongyang was behind last year's cyber attack on the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, saying the hacking method and Internet protocol (IP) addresses used for the attack were either similar or identical to those used by the North in previous attacks.

A picture of a white cat grinning and covering its mouth was posted on the Web site of the JoongAng Ilbo on June 9, 2012, the NPA said. Beneath the picture were the words, "Hacked by IsOne," with complicated codes written in green.

The main server of the firm's cyber system was also attacked and substantial data were destroyed from the production system of the newspaper, the NPA added.

Police determined Pyongyang was the perpetrator after analyzing access records of the hacked system, malicious codes, the IP addresses of two local servers and 17 servers spread throughout 10 different countries.

On Thursday, a government source claimed that the then transition committee of incumbent President Lee Myung-bak was hacked in 2008.

"More than 400 computers were hacked at the time and an investigation revealed that North Korea was behind the attack, so we took (necessary) measures," the source said, asking that he not be identified.

It was not immediately clear whether any classified information was leaked in the attack.

Park's transition team is currently set up in the same office building as was Lee's team.


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