SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- Amid escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula, the South Korean government on Wednesday announced that North Korea was behind the massive hacking attack that paralyzed networks of local financial firms and broadcasters last month.
Three South Korean banks -- Shinhan, NongHyup and Jeju -- and their insurance affiliates as well as three TV broadcasters -- KBS, MBC and YTN -- suffered the cyber attack as malicious code infected some 48,000 computers in their networks on March 20.
Following the initial attack, the Web sites of YTN and anti-Pyongynag organizations also suffered another round of cyber attacks on March 25 and 26.
"The series of cyber attacks on March 20, 25 and 26 resembled the cyber attack methods that North Korea had attempted in previous hackings," the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning said in a press release.
The announcement comes as North Korea is ratcheting up threats against Seoul and Washington ahead of an imminent missile test.
While critics almost immediately pointed fingers at Pyongyang, the government had kept mum on the communist state's involvement, saying it was in the process of a "multilateral" probe to track down "all possible infiltration routes."
Earlier in the probe, the communications watchdog said a Chinese IP address accessed NongHyup's update management server and generated malicious files, fueling speculations of the North's involvement.
The watchdog, however, retracted the announcement a day later and acknowledged that it had mistaken a private IP address used by NongHyup as an IP address allocated to China.
The March 20 incident marks the latest attack in Pyongyang's growing pursuit of technological warfare. While the communist state has denied allegations, it has been blamed for a series of cyber attacks on the Web sites of South Korean government agencies and financial institutions in the past few years.
North Korea is known to operate a cyber warfare unit of 3,000 elite hackers who are trained to break into computer networks to steal information and distribute malware.
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