S Korea, US bracing for cyber attacks

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S Korea, US bracing for cyber attacks
This time, cyber attacks likely to target personal computers
THERE have been several waves of serious cyber attacks that hit major organisations and governments in South Korea and the US this month.
12 July 2009

THERE have been several waves of serious cyber attacks that hit major organisations and governments in South Korea and the US this month.

Places hit include the White House and the Pentagon. Several sites survived the attack but some were badly hit and had to shut down temporarily.

The assaults on the websites are called denial-of-service attacks, in which floods of computers, infected with a virus, try to connect to a single site at the same time, overwhelming the server.

So far there have been three attacks.

But the fourth wave, expected any time now, may move from governments to people – personal computer hard disks may be wiped out.

South Korean officials said this yesterday as both countries braced for the attack.

Leading South Korean web security firm Ahnlab, which has closely examined the attacks, said the new phase would target data on tens of thousands of infected personal computers.

‘The affected computers will not be able to boot and their storage files will be disabled,’ Mr Lee Byung-cheol of Ahnlab told Reuters.

But finding out who was responsible for the attack is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Investigations have shown the attacks in the US and South Korea used 86 IP addresses (the Internet equivalent of a street address or phone number) in 16 countries, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers yesterday.

The countries include South Korea, the United States, Japan and Guatemala, Mr Chung Chin-sup, a member of the parliamentary intelligence committee, told reporters.

The National Intelligence Service – after its investigations of the IP addresses – also briefed lawmakers on circumstantial and technical reasons for believing that North Korea could be behind the attacks, AP reported Mr Chung as saying.

Ms Park Young-sun, a lawmaker and member of the intelligence committee, said: ‘So far, North Korea was not included among the 16 countries’ IP addresses.’

Private, public sectors hit

North Korea has not responded to the allegations of its involvement in the website outages.

The first attack hit both South Korea and the US on 4Jul, the American Independence Day holiday.

The New York Times reported the attacks also included the State Department and the New York Stock Exchange.

The Washington Post, who was itself targeted, said other targeted websites were the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Trade Commission.

On Thursday, a third wave hit seven South Korean websites, one belonging to the government and the others to private entities, said Mr Ku Kyo-young, an official from the state-run Korea Communications Commission, but most were back up and running quickly.

Though the attacks are considered by many cyber experts to be little more than a nuisance to public websites, the incident raised old criticism that the US government’s policies on cyber warfare are shrouded in secrecy, ill-formed and require broad public debate.

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