|Restored Cheong Wae Dae homepage is shown in this photo. It was normalized Tuesday afternoon after it came under attack by unidentified hackers earlier in the day. An official notice in a separate pop-up says visitors cannot post new messages due to the hacking attacks.|
The websites of South Korea’s presidential office, the ruling party and major media companies were attacked by hackers Tuesday morning.
The hackers claimed to be from the international hacktivist group Anonymous.
The homepage of Cheong Wa Dae and the Office of Government Policy Coordination were shut down for repair and security reasons immediately after the attacks at around 9:30 a.m., officials said.
The government launched a joint response team and raised the cyber security level right after the incident.
The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning issued the third-highest level of cyber alert and said it had begun 24-hour monitoring of all state telecommunications networks.
A total of 11 media companies and five government offices and local chapters of the ruling Saenuri Party were affected by the attack, officials said.
“The joint team has shut down sites affected by malicious codes,” a ministry official said.
He added that 131 internet servers were down and four homepages were changed. Two sites suffered from distributed denial-of-service attacks.
The attackers left messages in red on the Cheong Wa Dae website that praised the North Korean leader, saying “Great leader Kim Jong-un. Kim Jong-un is North Korea’s supreme leader.”
They left another message around 10 a.m. that read “We Are Anonymous. We Are Legion. We Do Not Forgive. We Do Not Forget. Expect Us.”
A photo of President Park Geun-hye was attached to the message. The attack did not cause disruption to work at Cheong Wa Dae, officials said, adding that the presidential office separately operated its Internet and Intranet.
But officials said it was still unclear who was behind the attack. Officials said they could not confirm that it was Anonymous. The group said it would attack dozens of North Korean websites on Tuesday, the 63rd anniversary of the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean war.
Cheong Wa Dae also did not refer to the possibility of a North Korean cyber attack.
Previously, the Seoul government blamed Pyongyang for a series of cyber attacks that paralyzed the websites and internal networks of broadcasters and major financial institutions in March. North Korea’s top military agency was behind the cyber attacks, the Seoul government said in April, citing a large number of similarities between the March attacks and previous incidents carried out by North Korea.
Websites of major news outlets including the conservative Chosun Ilbo and the ruling Saenuri Party’s local chapters were also allegedly attacked soon after the hackers hit Cheong Wa Dae.
Of Saenuri’s 16 regional offices, the homepages of eight chapters in cities including Seoul, Incheon, Busan, Ulsan and Gwangju were paralyzed as of 11:30 a.m.
“It is confirmed that not only Cheong Wa Dae and the Office of Government Policy Coordination but also some news outlets were attacked by hackers,” said an official at the police’s cyber terror response team.
“A massive cyber attack seems to have started.”
The Joint Chiefs of Staff also upgraded the military’s information operations condition, or INFOCON, to level 4. The normal INFOCON level for South Korea is 5.
Meanwhile, Anonymous said on Twitter that it attacked the North Korean government at 11:00 a.m.
It is unknown whether the group actually paralyzed websites operated by the North Korean government. But sources said the websites of the Korean Central News Agency, the Rodong Sinmun and portal Naenara, previously targeted by Anonymous, were all out of service as of 11 a.m.
Last week, the group said that it planned to “display strength” on June 25, which marks the 63rd anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.
The hacking group claimed to have successfully penetrated Pyongyang’s intranet and private networks, and obtained information on the country’s military, residents and missiles. It said it would share some of the information with the world.
By Cho Chung-un and Yoon Min-sik