North Korea has drastically stepped up its efforts to hack into the computers of defectors since last August when an outspoken, senior diplomat defected to the country’s mortal enemy South Korea, a Korean computer expert with knowledge of the situation said.
There were hardly any hacking incidents of the computers of North Korean defectors last June and July, but after the defection Thae Yong Ho, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom, there were 15 hackings in August, said Choi Sang-myong, head of the Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center (CERTCC) at the privately owned South Korean internet security company HAURI Inc.
North Korean agents sent emails to defectors with file attachments called “Thae Yong Ho interview,” “North Korea democratization,” and “Balloons sent to North Korea,” Choi said. When the recipients opened the attachments, their computers became infected.
“It is believed that Free NK, an online news outlet run by a North Korean defector in the United Kingdom, was hacked because it has links to Thae Yong Ho,” Choi said.
North Korea has been known to have trained professional computer hackers since the early 1990s. Experts now assume that the country’s hackers number about 6,000 to 7,000.
Choi predicts that North Korea may try to hack and manipulate South Korea’s computer network for traffic and communication in order to divert attention away from the controversy surrounding the assassination of Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother Kim Jong Nam in Malaysia in February.
[Radio Free Asia]