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(2nd LD) Web sites of N.K. defector groups, media firms paralyzed

All News 17:08 March 26, 2013

(ATTN: UPDATES with president's remarks in last 4 paras; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, March 26 (Yonhap) -- A week after a massive cyber attack on the country's major broadcasters and banks, several associations here for North Korean defectors and local media outlets that primarily focus on the communist country suffered a paralysis of their Web sites in what appeared to be a hacking attack, officials of the entities said Tuesday.

The home page of the Daily NK, which is run by opponents of the North Korean government to provide detailed coverage of the communist nation, and those of several other associations for North Korean defectors were also paralyzed, according to the groups.

"Outside attacks presumed to be hacking from outside disrupted access to our Web site from 1:40 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.," the Daily NK said in an announcement posted on its Web site.

"The company in charge of managing our server has pointed to a malicious hacking incident which came from private Internet Protocol (IP) addresses in the U.S.," said the Daily NK official, adding the attacks have continued even while repair work is under way.

Free North Korea Radio, an independent broadcaster targeting North Korea, also said their Web site "was completely destroyed," after being attacked after noon. Several other defector groups also said they saw their home pages crash on Tuesday.

Tuesday's disruptions came a week after several of the country's major broadcasters and banks experienced a shutdown of their computer networks due to malicious code. While an investigation into the exact cause of the massive attack is under way, the government said it "leaves open all possibilities including an attack carried out by North Korea."

Meanwhile, the computer network for the country's seven local autonomous governments returned to normal on Tuesday after being paralyzed for unknown reasons, according to government officials.

According to the National Computing and Information Agency, the information network system that supports local governments across the country was halted at around 10:40 a.m., causing the network used by the country's seven local entities, including the Gyeonggi, Incheon and Jeju governments, to crash.

The agency attributed the incident to overloading the equipment that connects the central network to each entity, adding they are looking into what caused the paralysis.

After about an hour and a half, the agency managed to fix the problems, returning the system for all seven local governments back to normal.

The network of the country's broadcaster YTN also malfunctioned around noon on Tuesday, leading its several Web sites to shut down. The company said it suspected an unidentified attack from outside, while the government's joint response team spotted trouble within the system.

Confirming the occurrence of such cases, the government is now "closely working to confirm if the paralysis cases were caused by technical problems or hacking attacks," the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said in a statement.

Presiding over a Cabinet meeting later in the day, President Park Geun-hye ordered the government to quickly and accurately determine the cause of the network paralyses.

"I would like you to conduct an overall safety check on broadcasting, communications, finance and other key civilian facilities that are relatively more vulnerable compared to the government's computer network," Park said.

She also said there is criticism that the government is unable to handle the issue effectively due to the separation of responsibilities between the police, the national intelligence agency and the communications watchdog.

"As this is an important national security issue, I would like the (presidential) office of national security to carry out an overall review and come up with (relevant) measures," she said.


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