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Gov't raises cyber alert level amid signs of N. Korean hack attacks

All News 13:57 January 25, 2016

By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, Jan. 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea raised its cyber alert level following the influx of malicious e-mails presumed to have originated from North Korea amid a spike in cross-border tensions after Pyongyang tested a fourth nuclear device early this month, the government said Monday.

The country's cyber alert was marked up one notch to "yellow" from the normal "blue," the Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning said. It said authorities detected an increase in e-mails that impersonate government organizations, including the presidential office and the foreign ministry, as well as Internet portal managers.

"North Korea has attempted cyber attacks previously to spark public anxiety and hostility against the government," the ICT ministry said, adding that the latest series of e-mails could be part of North Korea's broader provocations following what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb test on Jan. 6.

The government said the e-mails seem to be targeting people working in key infrastructure areas and their partner firms that can have considerable repercussions throughout the country's web ecosystem. It urged South Koreans to install antivirus programs on their PCs and smartphones, and to refrain from opening suspicious e-mails.

Policymakers have asked local computer antivirus firms and system integration companies to be on guard against attacks and take steps to respond effectively to them.

In December 2014, the state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. suffered a series of cyber attacks, and an anonymous anti-nuclear group posted a series of documents and operating manuals for a number of South Korean nuclear reactors on the Internet.

South Korean investigators concluded the attack is believed to have been caused by North Korean hackers, although Pyongyang denied involvement.


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