An organization believed to be run by North Korea’s government hacked into the email accounts of dozens of officials, journalists and others in South Korea this year, Seoul officials said today, the latest cyberattack that the South blames on its rival.
The organization sent phishing emails to government officials, journalists and professors who specialize in North Korean affairs to try to trick them into giving away their passwords, Seoul’s Supreme Prosecutors’ Office said in a statement.
The passwords for at least 56 of the email accounts were eventually leaked, according to the prosecutors’ office. Seoul authorities were investigating whether any confidential state information was also stolen, but the prosecutors’ office said there had been no reports of leakage of important information.
The email scams are the latest in a series of cyberattacks in recent years that Seoul blames on Pyongyang, but North Korea has denied the allegations. South Korea says North Korea has a 6,000-member cyber army dedicated to disrupting the South’s military and government.
Many of the past alleged cyberattacks failed to infiltrate targeted computer systems of businesses and government agencies.
But in several cases, hackers destroyed hard drive disks, paralyzed banking systems or disrupted access to websites. One attack was so crippling that a South Korean bank was unable to resume online services for more than two weeks.
Troops of the rival Koreas have faced each other along the world’s most heavily fortified border since their war in the early 1950s ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
North Korea conducted a fourth nuclear test and conducted a prohibited long-range rocket launch earlier this year, inviting worldwide condemnation and tough UN sanctions.