South says North Korea hacked phones

Accusation comes as Seoul announces new unilateral sanctions against Pyongyang amid escalation of tensions.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches a military drill in this undated photo [Reuters]
    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches a military drill in this undated photo [Reuters]

    South Korea's spy agency on Tuesday accused North Korea of hacking into the smartphones of dozens of key officials, stealing text and voice messages and their call logs.

    The announcement came a day after North Korea warned of nuclear strikes in response to the start of Seoul-Washington military exercises it views as an invasion rehearsal. This year's manoeuvres are the largest ever, meant to respond to the North's recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.

     Tensions high as South Korea accuses Pyongyang of provocations

    The National Intelligence Service said in a statement that the cyberattacks were made between late February and early March.

    It didn't say which officials' phones were hacked or whether the stolen text and voice messages contained any sensitive information.

    The statement said North Korea also unsuccessfully tried to hack into email accounts of South Korean railway officials earlier this year, in a preparation for cyberattack on the South's railway transport control system.

    There was no immediate reaction from North Korea

    Seoul has accused Pyongyang of launching a series of cyberattacks in recent years. Pyongyang has denied the claims.

    Meanwhile, South Korea announced new unilateral sanctions against North Korea on Tuesday amid the escalation of tensions on the peninsula, including import-export restrictions

    "First, we are expanding the scope of financial sanctions related to North Korea. Second, we are strengthening maritime regulations," said Lee Suk-joon, minister for government policy coordination.

    Many alleged North Korean cyberattacks failed to infiltrate computer systems of businesses and government agencies.

    But in several successful cases, also denied by North Korea, hackers destroyed hard-drive disks, paralysed banking systems, or disrupted access to websites. One of these attacks was so crippling that a South Korean bank was unable to resume online banking services for more than two weeks.

    In 2014, the United States accused North Korea of a cyberattack on Sony Pictures over a movie depicting the fictional assassination of the North's leader, Kim Jong Un. North Korea has denied any involvement in the hacking.

    Last year, South Korea said North Korea has a 6,000-member cyber army dedicated to disrupting the South's military and government. The figure was a sharp increase from a 2013 South Korean estimate of 3,000 such specialists.

     UN slams sanctions on North Korea

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    We visualised 1.2 million votes at the UN since 1946. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the world today?

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.