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South Korea raises cybersecurity alert after North's nuclear test

Dozens of fraudulent emails were distributed in the name of the Blue House, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry and Unification Ministry.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   Jan. 25, 2016 at 11:53 AM
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SEOUL, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- South Korea is on alert against North Korea cybersecurity threats in the wake of Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test.

Seoul issued a warning Monday, stating emails containing malicious codes and disguised as electronic dispatches from Samsung Corp. or the presidential Blue House were attacking personal computers, South Korean outlet Electronic Times reported Monday.

"The government is raising the cyber alert level following North Korea's nuclear test," South Korea's Ministry of Science and Future Planning stated, adding individual users should pay particular attention to their email accounts, according to Yonhap.

Private email account access has been blocked at government buildings, and the country's main telecommunication service providers have been instructed to strengthen cybersecurity.

Since Jan. 6, when North Korea announced a "successful" hydrogen bomb test, dozens of fraudulent emails sent in the name of the Blue House, Seoul's Foreign Ministry and Unification Ministry, were distributed, Seoul said Monday.

Some emails contained messages suggesting the user upgrade the word-processing software on their computers, while others instructed users to download Samsung's "mySingle" messenger application, which runs on a Microsoft-based platform.

The malicious code, once downloaded, can steal sensitive information from personal computers, and is similar to the virus that attacked computers at Sony Pictures in late 2014. Sony blamed a North Korean team of hackers for the security breech as it occurred just before the company's release of The Interview, which mocked leader Kim Jong Un.

Cybersecurity concerns are growing in South Korea and the United States after the Sony hack; a 2013 attack on 48,000 computers at South Korean banks and media outlets; and a hacking of a South Korean nuclear operator in 2014.

South Korean investigators have said they found proof North Korea was behind the series of cyberattacks.

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