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North Korea accused of online attacks to target 90 diplomats

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August 3, 2016

In what seems to be a regular and predictable ongoing trend, South Korea is again accusing the North of using online attacks to target 90 diplomats, security officials, journalists, and of breaching no less than fifty-six accounts run by such people.

The specific attacks were well thought-out and perfectly orchestrated it seems. Email account credentials were stolen through targeted spear-phishing linked to 27 domains setup to strongly lure specific targets, rather than a generic wave of phishing.

South Korea has not yet confirmed if sensitive state secrets have been compromised, said local news agency YonHap, but we are still waiting word on that.

Supreme Prosecutors' Office (SPO) officials said the attacks occurred between January and June 2016 with various attacks targeting the ministries of Foreign Affairs, the Defense Department and Unification.

Journalists posted to those agencies were targeted along with those investigating North Korea.

Seoul officials say the attacks of the North are more like fingerprints that mirror those of a confirmed Pyongyang hack attack back in 2014.

They blame North Korea's General Bureau of Reconnaissance (GBR) otherwise known as the nation's state-sponsored offensive hacking unit.

South Korea's National Security Service and the Korea Internet and Security Agency worked in concert with prosecutors to kill the phishing sites.

"It's important for government officials to refrain from using private email accounts for official work, and they should frequently change their email passwords," one prosecution official asserted.

"When government officials carry out some important tasks, it's desirable for them to take some security steps such as temporarily shutting down the internet service," it added.

That advice seems odd. Regular password resets have been long shown to do little to bolster defence or boot intruders, and can actually soften systems since users are generally inclined to select weaker and more cliché passwords as the need to constantly select new codes wears thin.

Shutting off the internet on a machine otherwise open to the public web would be little more than a chance coffee break for attackers.

North Korea attacks include hacks against Seoul defence contractors, social networks, and major online retailers, all of which have exposed sensitive documents and the personal information of tens of millions of residents. We'll keep you posted.

Source: The Government of South Korea.

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Read the latest IT news. Visit ItDirection.net. Updated several times daily.

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