South Koreans Blast Authorities Over Hack Attack Handling

Questions remain over the origin of the massive cyber attack against major websites in South Korea last week.

After a suspected hack attack struck South Korean banks and media companies on March 20, 2013 and damaged 32,000 computers, South Korean authorities were quick to jump to the conclusion that the attack originated from North Korea. Initial reports claimed the attackers’ IP address seems to be coming from China, but a few days later officials contradicted their previous claims, saying that an internal IP address from one of the banks was infected by the malicious code.

Nearly a week after the attack, the identity of the attackers remains unknown. Frustrated South Koreans have slammed authorities in their comments online for their incompetence in blocking such attacks and for taking political advantage of the situation by blaming North Korea.

Many Twitter users, while not denying the existence of a North Korean hacker army, were suspicious of the attack's timing. South Korean authorities have accused the North of cyber attacks before, including similar attacks back in 20092011, and 2012. Some speculated this most recent attack might be a convenient way to distract the public from allegations against the country's top intelligence agency, called the National Intelligence Service, of improper political involvement:

Image of Hackers

Image by Flickr user José Goulão, Color Altered by Author (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

@onsaemiro3: 국정원 정치 개입이 실체화되자.. 절묘한 타이밍에 후이즈의 해킹 기습! 극우파와 메이저 언론은 북한 소행이라고 일제히 대서특필! 아~ 국민들 병신 만들기 능력은 정말 세계최고!

@onsaemiro3: The moment the National Intelligence Service's political involvement is made clearer, there happens to be hacking attacks coming from Whois (a new, unknown group claiming credit for the attack)- at such exact timing. The extreme right-wing group and mainstream media unanimously made headlines that read “it was done by North Korea”. Their ability to fool their own people are one of the best in the world.

@ifkorea: 해킹을 북한이 했다고 하면 국정원의 인터넷 감시활동이 일정 정도 당위성이 생겨 박근혜 지지자들의 옹호여론을 만들 수 있다. IP가 중국에 있으니 북한소행으로 추정된다는 요상한 드립을 했으나 거짓으로 드러남.이러니 무슨 말을 해도 안믿는 것이다.

@ifkorea: If the hacking attack were indeed carried out by the North, the National Intelligence Service's Internet censorship activities can be justified and this could work in a way to support [new South Korean President] Park Geun-hye. They conjured up a ridiculous story that it was done by the North since the attackers’ IP addresses were coming from China – which was discovered to be false. When these things keep happening, people can no longer believe in anything they say.

@woohyung: “북한 소행일 가능성 높다”등의 공격주체에 집착하는 이른바 “전문가”는 사실은 비전문가 임을 증명하는 셈이고, 언론도 이를 강조하면 잘못된 보도. 한국에만 꼭 이런 사고가 일어나는게 북한때문이라고 믿는것은 거의 사이비광신종교 수준이 아닐까 생각.

@woohyung: The so-called “pundits” prove themselves to be no where close to being pundits by focusing on who launched the attack and claiming “it is highly likely North Korea did it”. And the media made the same mistake by doing so. The belief that such things happen in South Korea only because of North Korea is almost irrational as some religious cults.

Some Web users, such as @eungu, analyzed what made South Korea particularly prone to hacking attacks:

@eungu: 한국처럼 해킹하기 좋은 나라도 없을겁니다. 액티브X를 설치하는걸 습관처럼 여기는 나라니 뭐가 떠서 설치하라고 하면 습관처럼 ‘Yes'를 누를테고, 해킹을 해도 무조건 북한 소행이라고 하니 잡히지도 않고…#해커들의_놀이터_한국

@eungu: There is no nation more inviting to hacking attacks than South Korea. It is so frequent for [Korean] websites to force users to install Active X [before using their service]. Users, when confronted with messages “will you install this software?”, they habitually hit “yes”. Even after the hacking attack is done, they would unconditionally blame North Korea making it extra hard to catch the real victim. #hacker's_playground_SouthKorea

Many worry the habit of blaming North Korea for every cyber attack could have consequences later on. Net user ID:Ssuda on the TodayHumor site employed [ko] the fable of the boy who cried “wolf!” to describe the possible aftermath:

요즘 북한 김정은돼지가 미쳐서 안보가 위협적인상황인건 알지만 어제 해킹사건과 오늘 공습경보 속보를 보면서 양치기 소년 이야기가 떠오르는건 저뿐인가요 거짓말로 안보안보 외치다가 진짜로 북한이 일을 터쳣을때 우리가 너무 무감각해지지않을지[…]

I know that we are in the middle of the national security crisis thanks to that pig Kim Jong-un up in the North. But when I heard about today's air raid announcement in North Korea (which happened for several hours) and yesterday's hacking event, is it only me who is reminded of the story of the Shepherd Boy and the Wolf? I am worried that falsely shouting out that there is a breach of national security could make us unresponsive in times of real crisis if the North actually does something horrible.

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