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Seoul looks north as cyber strike targets cashpoints in South Korea


One of the most sophisticated cyber attacks ever launched against South Korea has paralysed computer systems at the nation’s leading broadcasters and shut down banks’ cashpoint machines across the country. 

The apparently coordinated attack struck this afternoon and left the South’s biggest broadcaster, KBS, struggling to produce programmes. Computer networks at two other TV networks and at the Shinhan and Nonghyup banks  were “partially or entirely crippled,” according to the state-run Korea Internet Security Agency.

South Korea’s National Police Agency confirmed that a “virus or malicious code” had triggered the crash. Suspicion quickly fell on hackers from North Korea.

The attack comes amid another dangerous spike in tensions on the volatile Korean peninsula following a third nuclear test by the North last month.

The South’s Defence Ministry said it was “not ruling out” the possibility of the North’s involvement but said speculation was “premature” until it completed an investigation.

Pyongyang is widely believed to have been behind two coordinated cyber attacks in 2009 and 2011 that crashed the networks of government agencies and banks. 

The North blamed a two-day crash in its domestic internet network last week on hackers from the US and South Korea, and has threatened to retaliate.

While computer hacking is difficult to trace, separate investigations by the South’s police cyber crime unit and computer software company McAfee concluded that North Korea or parties associated had carried out the attacks.