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Hackers in China swiped sensitive data from gov’t

GNP rep says e-mail with malware got to diplomats, security officials

Oct 16,2010
Hackers from China have successfully stolen confidential information from foreign service and security officials through e-mails that purport to be from the Blue House or diplomats abroad, a report from the National Intelligence Service showed.

Grand National Party Representative Lee Jung-hyun, a member of the legislature’s National Defense Commission, provided the JoongAng Ilbo on Thursday with intelligence agency warnings sent to government offices earlier this year.

According to the documents, the National Intelligence Service warned that malicious e-mails were sent to foreign affairs and security public servants and diplomats abroad. The NIS said the e-mails, which contained a type of malware capable of stealing data from personal computers and mobile data storage devices, were sent repeatedly, and it warned civil servants to step up their security. The e-mails were disguised to appear to be coming from diplomats and Blue House officials.

The e-mails contained attachments titled “Briefing on [U.S.-Korea expert Jack] Pritchard’s North Korea visit,” “2010 Korean Peninsula affairs outlook” and “Itinerary of Kim Jong-il’s trip to China.”

“When the attached documents are opened, hacking programs will infect the computers and all the stored data will be stolen,” the National Intelligence Service warned.

The e-mails were sent from accounts with major Korean portals, but the Ministry of National Defense tracked down the IP addresses and discovered that they originated in China.

Despite the NIS warnings, many public servants opened the attachments, Representative Lee said, adding that he had evidence to prove it.

Lee said he personally obtained two Defense Ministry reports, believed to be stolen through the hackers’ e-mails, from Chinese hackers. Lee wouldn’t disclose how he obtained the reports. One of the reports he obtained, ironically, was a Defense Ministry study of the Chinese hackers and their malware virus.

The other was an analysis of military personnel affairs, which the ministry commissioned from Samsung SDS in 2002. The report included plans for an integrated computer network for the military and other confidential information, such as information-sharing and personnel appointments.

“I am dumbfounded that these reports were leaked to China, floated around on the Internet and maybe went to North Korea,” Lee said. “It shows how vulnerable the government’s security systems were.”

The extent of the damage from the stolen information was not immediately available.

Another lawmaker on the National Defense Committee, Representative Song Young-sun of the minority opposition Future Hope Alliance, said earlier this month that a total of 1,763 confidential pieces of information were stolen by hackers this year, citing Defense Ministry reports.


By Kang Min-seok, Lee Ka-young [myoja@joongang.co.kr]



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