South Korea raises alert after hackers attack broadcasters, banks

SEOUL Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:36am EDT

A man walks at the main office of television network YTN in Seoul March 20, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

A man walks at the main office of television network YTN in Seoul March 20, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Lee Jae-Won

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean authorities were investigating a hacking attack that brought down the servers of three broadcasters and two major banks on Wednesday, and the army raised its alert level due to concerns of North Korean involvement.

Servers at television networks YTN, MBC and KBS were affected as well as Shinhan Bank and NongHyup Bank, two major banks, the police and government officials said. At least some of the computers affected by the attacks had some files deleted, according to the authorities.

"We sent down teams to all affected sites. We are now assessing the situation. This incident is pretty massive and will take a few days to collect evidence," a police official said.

The banks have since restored their operations, but the TV stations could not say when they would be able to get their systems back up. Some workers at the stations could not boot their computer.

Broadcasts were not affected.

South Korea's military said it was not affected by the attack but raised its state of readiness in response. None of the country's oil refineries, power stations, ports or airports was affected.

Police and government officials declined to speculate on whether North Korea, which has threatened to attack both South Korea and the United States after it was hit with United Nations sanctions for its February nuclear test, was behind the hacking.

The police played down expectations of a quick answer as to whether the North, which has hacker schools just like its ally China does, was responsible. One officer said it would take longer than a murder investigation to assign responsibility.

Some South Korean internet users posted an image of a page on social network sites that was purportedly seen through services provided by LG UPlus Corp in which a group calling itself the "Whois Team" took responsibility for the attacks.

But the claim could not be verified, and LG UPlus denied the existence of such a page.

North Korea has in the past targeted South Korea's conservative newspapers, banks and government institutions.

The biggest hacking effort attributed to Pyongyang was a 10-day denial of service attack in 2011 that antivirus firm McAfee, part of Intel Corp, dubbed "Ten Days of Rain". It said that attack was a bid to probe the South's computer defenses in the event of a real conflict.

South Korean authorities said Woori Bank, another major local lender, was also attacked on Wednesday but was not infected.

North Korea last week complained that its own websites had been hacked, blaming the United States for staging cyber attacks aimed at "sabotages" against the country.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Joyce Lee; Additional Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin and Lee Changho; Editing by David Chance and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (37)
MudCow wrote:
Is this bloodless soft war a prelude to a bloody hard one ?

Mar 20, 2013 6:59am EDT  --  Report as abuse
chrisadv1 wrote:
Wait a sec. Are we saying that a low tech country (look at their video games) actually hacked computer systems decades ahead of them? Not just personal computers but banks? I don’t care if they even take credit for it, I don’t buy it. The North has shown Tina and again that they can’t even do a script kiddie job of doing anything much less do something like this.

Mar 20, 2013 7:37am EDT  --  Report as abuse
GaHunter123 wrote:
Kind of hard to believe that North Korea could have pulled off a successful hack against modern computers. I could see the concern if you owned a Commodore 64.

Mar 20, 2013 7:55am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.