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South Korea on Recent Cyberattacks: 'Circumstances Point to North Korea'

South Korea Hacking Attack H
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Pyongyang’s history of offensives and recent reinstatement of its terrorism think-tank raise possibilities of its involvement paralyzing Seoul's media companies and banks.

SEOUL — In light of the largest cyberattacks Wednesday against major South Korean media companies and banks, local authorities remain careful about accusing the North for the terrorist act but suggest it is a possibility.

“We are in the midst of a comprehensive investigation, so we cannot come to conclusions about who is responsible for it,” government officials told the media here Wednesday. “We need to make technical confirmations, but given the circumstances there is room for suspicion (that the North is the perpetrator),” they said in regards to Pyongyang’s threats, including possible nuclear strikes, made against Seoul and Washington D.C. only five days ago.

Authorities here have reason to suspect its Northern neighbors for paralyzing local broadcasters KBS, MBC and YTN as well as Shinhan and other major banks — Pyongyang was behind similar offensives in recent years: against the Presidential residency Cheongwadae (Blue House), National Assembly and other government organizations in 2009; against KB Kookmin Bank and Naver, respectively the largest bank and portal site in the country, in 2011; and against major daily JoongAng Ilbo in 2012, among others.

According to a statement released Thursday by the National Intelligence Service, the South Korean spy bureau, some 73,000 cyberoffensives occurred in the country during the past five years, among which North Korea is responsible for six major cases.

The Stalinist regime is notorious for its capacity for online terrorism and is believed to have some 1,000 to 3,000 professional hackers in employment. Seoul’s authorities are also noting the reinstatement last month of Kim Young-chol as chief of the Reconnaissance Bureau, Pyongyang’s think-tank for international espionage and terrorism activities. He is held responsible for past cyberattacks against South Korea.

Meanwhile, the South Korean Police’s Cyber Terror Response Center and prosecutors are looking into the recent attacks, as well as drawing countermeasures for possible future offensives.