NK may have attempted cyberattack amid Kakao outage: report

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NK may have attempted cyberattack amid Kakao outage: report

An attempted cyberattack that occurred during the recent outage of South Korea’s biggest messenger service KakaoTalk may have been the work of North Korean hackers, a news outlet has reported.

According to Radio Free Asia, various individuals working in services related to the communist country, along with several North Korean defectors received an email claiming to have been sent by the Kakao tech service team on Sunday, as the extended outage that began Saturday took down most of the tech giant’s services.

The email told the recipients to download an electronic file that would have led to the user’s personal data being stolen and the computer being controlled remotely by the hacker.

RFA cited security experts who suspected that North Korea was behind the malicious email. An official from ESTsecurity Corp., a Seoul-based cybersecurity firm, said the attack seems to be timed specifically to take place during the KakaoTalk outage for maximum effect.

The nationwide KakaoTalk disruptions were apparently caused by a fire at the company’s data center in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province.

A pedestrian walks by the Kakao headquarters in Pangyo, Gyeonggi Province, Tuesday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

The effects that an outage of online services used on a nationwide scale would have on South Korean society was made clear by the Kakao meltdown, the expert noted, speculating that the North may attempt further cyberattacks related to the incident.

South Korean authorities are yet to confirm whether North Korea was behind the email attack.

North Korea has been pinpointed as being responsible for a number of recent cyberattacks here, including one targeting the local defense industry during the South Korea-US joint military drills in August.

On Saturday, a fire at the SK C&C data center in Pangyo, Gyeonggi Province, took down most services provided by the country’s largest app operator. This led to countrywide confusion as it disrupted not only KakaoTalk — which over 90 percent of the South Korean population uses — but also its ride-hailing, payments, banking and other related services.

The incident prompted reactions from lawmakers and even President Yoon Suk-yeol himself, with the government vowing to devise measures to prevent what it called a “national disaster” from recurring.

By Yoon Min-sik ([email protected])


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