The South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) revealed that North Korea had hacked into smartphones belonging to a number of key government officials.
The announcement was made on Tuesday, according to the NIS cyber spies from North Korea have stolen sensitive data and texts from messages from smartphones used by dozens of key South Korean officials between late February and early March, after the North completed its fourth nuclear test.
North Korea has launched numerous cyber attacks against the South The hackers also targeted the server of a major software firm specializing in providing security software for Internet banking and launched a spear-phishing campaign against employees of two provincial railway operators.
The hackers also used text messages containing links to malicious domains used to serve mobile RAT on the victim’s devices.
Security experts believe that North Korean hackers are preparing a new wave of cyber attacks on the South’s critical infrastructure, including railway traffic control systems.
“North Korea has been mounting a series of attacks against our cyberspace” following its nuclear test on January 6, revealed the NIS, adding that “they appeared to have been preparation for a major cyber assault on South Korea’s banking network.” “If left unchecked, it would have resulted in major financial chaos, such as paralysis of Internet banking systems and unwanted transfers of deposits.”
North Korea is considered one of the most dangerous forces in the cyber space, In May 2015, the BBC published an article based on the revelations of a North Korean defector, an alleged member of the dreaded elite cyber army established by the Government in Pyongyang.
North Korea holds an impressive army of cyber warriors, with over 6,000 sophisticated professionals. According to the claims of people who have escaped to South Korea, their main target is none other than the Western infrastructure of critical value. The cyber army is trained and operates in an isolated county called Bureau 121.
“When it comes to cyber-attacks, few groups are as notorious as North Korea’s Bureau 121, which has operated since the late nineties. Most security researchers agree that the group operates out of China. Specifically, in the basement of a restaurant, rated highly on TripAdvisor for its tremendous Korean food.” reported the BBC.
North Korea has the highest percentage of military personnel in relation to population, it has approximately 40 enlisted soldiers per 1000 people with a considerable impact on the budget of the country.
In 2013, a defector declared that North Korea was increasing its cyber warfare unit to staff 3,000 people and it was massive training its young prodigies to become professional hackers.
According to the NIS, in 2015 North Korean nation-state hackers infected more than 60,000 personal computers in the South and abroad, recruiting them in a powerful botnet used in a series of cyber attacks.
The South Korean Government accused North Korea of many attacks against national infrastructures, including banks and media.
There is another aspect of the story, according to the opposition Minjoo Party, Seoul is elevating the level of attention on North Korea to pass the anti-cyber terror law, now pending in the National Assembly, which could give more surveillance powers to the NIS.
The opposition fear that the new law could allow the Government to spy on political opponents.
(Security Affairs – North Korea, Information Warfare)