Not only has North Korea denied involvement, it has accused Seoul of fabricating the story in order to pin rising cross-border tensions on the North, according to PressTV. The state internet research institute of North Korea claims that Pyongyang has never made a cyber-attack on its neighbor.
Vehement denial of involvement
In a statement released by the official KCNA news agency of North Korea, the institution claimed that “we never think about a bad act against the interests of our brethren under any circumstances,” before rejecting the accusations as “sheer fabrication.”
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South Korea blamed its northern neighbor for hacking into state-owned Korea Hydro, which is responsible for the running of 23 nuclear reactors in the country, in an attack which also targeted the company’s business partners. The cyberattacks were allegedly designed to steal internal data such as blueprints for nuclear plants and employees’ personal information.
North Korea has countered the South’s claims that it was responsible for the hack by claiming that they are part of a “sinister” strategy to blame deteriorating relations on the North.
Sensitive information published on Twitter
Back in December last year, unidentified hackers stole designs, manuals and other information about South Korean reactors, before publishing them on Twitter alongside employees’ personal information.
As a result of the leaks, Seoul launched an investigation which involved experts, government officials and state prosecutors, as part of an initiative to strengthen its cyber defenses.
Last week further information was published by a hacker, believed to have been stolen during the December attack. This time the hacker demanded money in order not to release sensitive data to other countries, which he claimed were interested in buying the information from him.
Investigation blames North Korea
South Korea berated its neighbor for attempting to incite “social chaos” by stealing information about its reactors. The investigation into the hack uncovered evidence that North Korea was behind the attack. According to a statement from the Seoul central prosecutors’ office, “the malicious codes used for the nuclear operator hacking were the same in composition and working methods as the so-called ‘kimsuky’ that North Korean hackers use.”
Relations between the two countries have declined of late, and tensions recently reached new highs due to joint military exercises held by South Korea and the United States. The annual war games are a point of contention in Pyongyang, which sees them as a precursor to an invasion of its territory.
For its part the U.S. claims that the drills are defensive in nature, but the North Korean ambassador to London, Hyun Hak-bong, believes that the U.S. is “softening” North Korea in order to carry out a “pre-emptive strike.”
In that same interview, Hak-bong claimed that North Korea is ready for nuclear war “anytime,” and would not hesitate to use its missiles. Relations with its paranoid northern neighbor have become increasingly difficult for South Korea, and not even its strong relationship with the U.S. could defend it from a rapid nuclear strike from the north.
Cyber attacks from North Korea: a regular occurrence?
Allegations of hacking against North Korea are nothing new, with South Korea accusing its neighbor of hacking its military institutions, banks, government agencies, TV broadcasters and media websites at various points over the past few years. The U.S. government also accused North Korea of being responsible for the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack last year.
The U.S. government has neither confirmed nor denied that a retaliatory attack was carried out, but the internet in North Korea was completely taken down for 10 hours soon after the Sony attack. It is unclear who was responsible, but the Obama administration did speak of its desire to send a message to North Korean officials that they were not beyond the reach of U.S. cyber attacks.
Latest news: North arrests two alleged spies from South
Tensions continue to rise with the news that North Korea claims to have arrested two South Korean spies based in the Chinese border city of Dandong. “They zealously took part in the anti-DPRK smear campaign of the U.S. imperialists and the puppet group of traitors to isolate and blockade the DPRK in (the) international arena,” said the official KCNA news agency.
Dandong plays host to many Korean Chinese businessmen who deal with both North and South Korea, as well as South Korean and Western Christian missionaries who attempt to work in North Korea. One of the men was accused of running an “underground church” based in China, as well as the illegal dissemination of foreign information on USB sticks and SD cards in North Korea.
At the time of writing, the National Intelligence Service of South Korea had not commented on the reports, which mark the latest escalation in tensions between the neighbors. The situation on the Korean peninsula is finely balanced, and it looks set to remain that way for the foreseeable future.