Of all the days for official government and media websites in both North and South Korea to go offline without warning, the anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War is probably not the optimum choice. And yet, on Tuesday – the 63rd anniversary of the official launch of hostilities between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – that’s exactly what happened, as sites were taken offline amid fears of cyber attacks on both sides.
On the South Korean side, sites including the South Korean Office of Government Policy Coordination and President Park Geun Hye were impacted by attacks, with one report explaining that, around 9:30 a.m. local time, the president’s site was defaced with the words “The Great Leader Kim Jong-Un.” Another message appeared half an hour later, apparently captioning a photograph of President Park Geun-hye with the message “Hooray to Kim Jong-un, the president of unification We will continue our attacks until our demands are met.”
Normal service was restored to the sites within hours, and at first glance, it appears that this bout of cyber attacks are more benign than the attacks that sites suffered in March of this year. No sensitive military or other key infrastructure were compromised as a result of this attack, and financial institutions also appear to have been left alone.
The attacks were seemingly the work of the Anonymous collective, with the Yonhap News Agency reporting that the message “We Are Anonymous. We Are Legion. We Do Not Forgive. We Do Not Forget. Expect Us” accompanied the 10 a.m. hack on the president’s website. The identity of the hackers was not discussed by state officials.
Meanwhile, Anonymous also seem to have been behind simultaneous attacks on North Korean sites including Air Koryo and news site Rodong Sinmun, although authorities in Pyongyang refused to comment on the possibility of such attacks. Associated Press reports after the event stated that South Korean authorities were also looking to confirm whether the North Korean sites had, in fact, been hacked, and if those attacks were connected in to the South Korean’s.
It’s worth noting, however, that members of Anonymous not only announced attacks on North Korean targets ahead of time, but also took credit for them afterwards. Although, interestingly enough, they didn’t foreshadow the South Korean attacks. Shin Hong-soon, an official in charge of online security from the science ministry of South Korea, told reporters that the government was as yet unable to confirm whether or not the attacks on North Korean sites were linked to the attack on South Korean sites.
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