WASHINGTON — U.S. authorities trying to sort out the widespread cyber attacks against government Web sites in the United States and South Korea this week are facing a lengthy, complex investigation that may never identify a culprit, at least not one they would be willing to reveal.
Cyber experts familiar with the inquiry are divided over the extent of North Korean involvement, split between those who believe hackers may have simply used zombie computers in the region and those who think the communist nation has moved to the digital battlefield.
Active involvement by North Korea would signal a new advancement by the nation.
If Pyongyang is behind the attacks, "it probably establishes a new pattern of behavior," said Rod Beckstrom, former head of the U.S. cybersecurity center. "If this is them, they are now in the club. And they're probably only going to get better."
Effects of the outage lingered Thursday, as State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said that cyber attacks on the department's computers continued, though not at the high volume seen in the first wave. A new wave of attacks also hit government sites in South Korea but did not knock them offline.
"We are taking measures to deal with this and any potential new attacks," Kelly said.