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South Korea hit by major cyber attack

Customers try to use ATMs while computer networks are paralyzed Wednesday at a subway station in Seoul.

Associated Press

Customers try to use ATMs while computer networks are paralyzed Wednesday at a subway station in Seoul.

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea was hit by a major cyber attack Wednesday as the computer systems of two major banks, three broadcasters and others simultaneously crashed, raising suspicions that North Korea was to blame.

On some computer screens, images of skulls with glowing red eyes popped up along with cackling laughter.

Although it appears the attack, which began about 2 p.m., was designed more to frighten than to destroy, it highlighted the vulnerability of one of the world's most wired, tech-dependent countries. Some banking operations were virtually paralyzed during the afternoon.

Newly installed President Park Geun-hye formed a crisis center to investigate the exact cause of the computer crashes.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that this was North Korea's deed, but it's hard to judge in advance," said Defense Ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok.

Initial findings today indicated a Chinese Internet address was the source of the attack. South Korea has previously accused North Korean hackers of using Chinese addresses to attack.

North Korea was a prime suspect in part because it had threatened in recent days to retaliate against South Korea for joint military exercises under way with the United States and for Seoul's support of U.N. sanctions against the North.

Last week, North Korea accused the United States and South Korea of shutting down several of its websites.

It is expected to take at least four to five days for the infected computers to recover fully.

Information from Associated Press was used in this report.

South Korea hit by major cyber attack 03/20/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 21, 2013 12:21am]
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