Websites about North Korea, defectors are knocked offline; new Pyongyang cyberattack suspected

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Several websites that carry independent news or defectors’ reports from North Korea said they were knocked offline Tuesday in what looks like another cyberattack from Pyongyang.

The Daily NK, a news site about North Korea, said its website was “temporarily paralyzed this afternoon following an invasive attack by an external hacker.”

In a statement, Daily NK said the attack, which appeared to have been routed through an Internet address in the United States, knocked the site offline for nearly an hour.

The company that hosts the Daily NK said the hacking attacks were ongoing, “adding a layer of complexity to efforts to recover lost data and augment protection on the site,” according to the statement.

It said similar attacks had been carried out simultaneously on the websites of other organizations, including NKnet, NK Intellectuals Solidarity and Free North Korea Radio.

The website of Free North Korea Radio, http://www.fnkradio.com, was unreachable as of 11 am EDT.

The hosting company, which was not identified, said the hackers had aimed at Daily NK databases and their attack “was designed to blow away the entire system … the aim was to completely incapacitate it.”

Last week, 32,000 computers at three major South Korean banks and three national broadcasters were effectively wiped clean in a massive cyberattack, crashing computer networks at all the affected organizations and knocking mobile and Internet banking systems and ATMs offline for a day or more.

Authorities in Seoul say they are still investigating the attacks, but some officials and others have pointed the finger of suspicion at Pyongyang, which has been implicated in previous cyberattacks against the South.

At “exactly the same time” last week, a Washington-based nonprofit working on North Korean issues was knocked offline, according to its executive director, Greg Scarlatoiu.

The website of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea was vandalized last week and was down for six hours or more, Mr. Scarlatoiu told The Washington Times.

He said that committee staff had not yet completed the laborious computer forensic process of trying to establish how the hacker got access to the site and where the attack might have come from.

Nonetheless, he said, given the nature of the group’s work and the timing of the attack, there was a “prime suspect” — North Korea.

He added that federal authorities had been informed and were taking appropriate steps.

The computer networks of seven South Korean regional governments also were paralyzed briefly on Tuesday, the Korea Herald reported. The Herald quoted a statement from the Planning Ministry in Seoul saying that the network failures “were caused by switch malfunctions and were fixed completely.”

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...

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