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N. Korea hacks phones of high officials, claims Seoul intelligence agency

N. Korea hacks phones of high officials, claims Seoul intelligence agency

Posted March. 09, 2016 07:21,   

Updated March. 09, 2016 07:30


South Korean intelligence agency has confirmed that North Korea hacked into smartphones of tens of the South’s foreign officials, stealing their call history and text messages. Contact lists of hacked smartphones have been stolen as well, raising concerns for further attacks. The National Intelligence Service (NIS) hosted an emergency meeting on cyber terrorism on Tuesday with bureau chiefs of 14 ministries, to discuss counter measures. A number of cases of cyberattack committed by the North were disclosed in the 3-hour meeting.

The NIS said that North Korean hackers have attempted to implant malware in some tens of South Korean senior officials’ cell phones from late February to early March, a fifth of those being successful. They tried to lure the cell users into clicking links of malware by sending texts or emails. Personal smartphones have turned out to be particularly vulnerable to such attacks than office cells, which were equipped with security programs.

Many worry that Seoul’s confidential information or strategic plans against the recent nuclear test and missile launch may have already leaked into the hands of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The NIS announced that they have blocked the same types of malware by analyzing the infected smartphones, and tracked down the hacking route, but did not unveil the specific scale of damages.

Meanwhile, it has also been revealed that public infrastructure, such as the financial and railway systems, have been constant targets. The South Korean spy agency estimates that Pyongyang have turned some 60,000 computers into “zombies” last year and is managing 10,000 of them in 120 countries around the world as of January.

우경임기자 woohaha@donga.com