Seoul Needs to Strengthen Its Cyber Defenses

      June 03, 2010 12:45

      South Korean intelligence agencies say North Korea has launched a cyber campaign using stolen IDs of South Koreans to plant propaganda claims on South Korean portals. Posts made under the names of South Koreans accusing their "traitorous" government of fabricating evidence linking North Korea to the sinking of the Cheonan are more or less identical to a statement by the North's National Defense Commission posted on a website operated by the propaganda apparatus.

      Intelligence services say North Korea is trying to make it appear as if people in the South are questioning the evidence presented by the government.

      North Korea is believed to have trained between 500 to 600 hackers and deploy them in cyber operations against South Korea. A so-called massive denial of service attack in July last year crippled not only major websites in South Korea for days but also the homepages of the White House and the New York Stock Exchange. Intelligence officers believe North Korean hackers stole the personal information of some 1.6 million prominent South Koreans over the last five years.

      North Korea has been cornered and faced with international condemnation following the presentation of concrete evidence by an international inquiry linking the North to the sinking. Seeking to escape, the North has been contacting its allies and making ludicrous claims that the U.S. is responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan, only to be pressed to present solid evidence proving such a claim. Against this backdrop, it is quite plausible that Pyongyang also launched a cyber campaign to make it appear as if there are many South Koreans who support its claims. Claims by some opposition lawmakers and leftwing intellectuals in the South that the Cheonan hit a reef or had crashed into a U.S. warship must have been music to North Korean ears.

      North Korea's latest cyber operation has once again demonstrated the weaknesses inherent in South Korea's computer defense system. The authorities must find out the source and facts behind the latest cyber attack and fix the weak links. And they must ensure that young South Koreans, who are the most frequent visitors of websites, are not swayed by North Korean propaganda.

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