N Korea is prime suspect as cyber-attack cripples South
Suspicion falls on Pyongyang as computer networks are hit at banks and TV stations
NORTH KOREA is suspected of launching an apparent "cyber-attack" on the South which paralysed computer systems at banks and television networks.
At least three major broadcasters and two banks in South Korea were hit in today's attack, which caused computer screens to go blank. There are also reports that skulls appeared on some monitors which "could indicate that hackers had installed malicious code in the networks", the BBC reports.
There is speculation that North Korea is responsible for the cyber-attack because "tensions are running high on the Korean peninsula" in the wake of the pariah state's third nuclear test last month. Five days ago, North Korea accused "the US and its allies" of launching cyber-attacks on its internet servers.
The BBC reports that the South Korean broadcasters KBS, MBC and YTN were affected by the incident as well as two banks, Shinhan Bank and Nonghyup. Their networks had been "partially or entirely crippled", the Korean Internet Security Agency (KISA) said.
South Korean authorities are "now trying to determine the cause of the network paralysis", a spokesman for the presidential office said. He added it was not yet known whether North Korea was involved.
North Korea is believed to have been responsible for two previous major cyber-attacks on the South, in 2009 and 2011, that targeted government agencies and finance companies. Seoul says it has identified 442 "sites and organisations" whose sole purpose is to attack South Korean computer systems via the internet, the Daily Telegraph says.
A recent KISA study said Pyongyang has been training a team of "dedicated hackers" since 1986 and is increasingly capable of launching coordinated attacks against "power utilities, traffic links, communications, the military and other state infrastructure".
The Telegraph says there is "particular concern" about South Korea's nuclear power stations – which supply 36 per cent of the country's electricity – and its high-speed rail network, which is controlled by a single command centre.
The paper points out that the attack coincides with meetings in Seoul between senior officials from South Korea and the US on ways to enforce the latest round of sanctions imposed on the North by the United Nations in the wake of last month's nuclear test. ·