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South Korea in the Cyber Crosshairs

By Kevin Coleman -- Defense Tech Cyberwarfare Correspondent

Once again South Korea has found itself the target of a cyber attack. This time, however, things are a bit different than usual. The targets were two popular social networking sites and more than 35 million users were impacted. Given that the population of South Korea is nearly 49 million, this is HUGE. South Korea touts itself as the most wired nation in the world with more than 90 percent of homes connected to the Internet. According to local security analysts, this event is the largest data breach in the country's history. The primary point of compromise appears to be the Nate portal (www.nate.com), which is the third most visited in the country. Account identities, user names, email addresses and other information were exposed, and it is reported that financial data and passwords were not encrypted.

The attacks are being investigated by multiple government elements including the Korea Communications Commission. The investigation is being led by the South Korean police. Early on in the investigation the malicious actions were traced back to an IP address in China. Cyber investigators are quick to point out we should not jump to conclusions. A common cyber attack design strategy uses compromised computer assets in one or more countries as an unwilling intermediary in their malicious activity.  Is this attack by China, is it North Korea, or is it someone else? No one is sure at this point.

Sources close to the ongoing investigation say there are no clear suspects at this point in time. This has not been a good year for South Korea when it comes to cyber attacks. Earlier this year South Korean government and military sites along with financial institutions experienced successful cyber assaults.  Sophisticated, well planned cyber attacks are becoming common events around the world.

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