Cyberattacks get away with 1,715 military secrets

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Cyberattacks get away with 1,715 military secrets

War plans against North Korea and other military secrets - 1,715 in total - were lost after computers belonging to around a dozen soldiers were hacked between January and March, according to military data disclosed by a lawmaker yesterday.

The military assumes the attacks were carried out by a single group for military purposes and is investigating whether North Korea was involved.

Song Young-sun, a lawmaker with the Future Hope Alliance and a member of the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee, requested the data showing that the attacks targeted military information. The Defense Ministry and the Defense Security Command surrendered the information to Song.

The JoongAng Ilbo is the first news organization to report the hacking, which the military acknowledged is the biggest leak since it established a cybersecurity center in December 2005 in a bid to combat military cyberattacks.

According to the data, 13 Army soldiers, including a colonel with the surname Jang, were analyzing military secrets on their personal computers when the hacking occurred. The hackers infected the Web-linked computers with malign viruses and stole secrets, the data showed.

Military officials tried to downplay the significance of the case, saying the hacked data was all out of date and are no longer considered secrets.

But Song said some of the data contained significant information concerning war plans against North Korea.

“The war operation plans, regardless of the secret-keeping period, can strike a blow to military operations when it gets into the hands of the enemy,” Song told the JoongAng Ilbo.

The military has yet to discover who hacked the secrets, but some in the military suspect it was not a random attack and was possibly done by the North. The computers were hacked by viruses sharing the same code. The 13 soldiers who were hacked also belong to units located near each other.

Last July, North Korea was accused of launching distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that paralyzed key government and private Web sites in Seoul.

The data showed the number of hacked military secrets surged over the years, from one in 2007, five in 2008, 41 in 2009 and 1,716 in just the first six months of this year.

According to other military data, the number of attempts to hack South Korean military information rose more than 50 percent annually over the past three years. The number is now an average of 93,720 a day, a three-fold increase from 29,681 in 2006.

The number of military personnel caught intentionally leaking military secrets, as spies or for money, was 71 in the first six months of the year, while 59 people lost secrets by mistake.

“Amid rising tension between the South and the North, the leaking or loss of military secrets by on-duty soldiers can have a serious effect on national security,” Song said.

The military said it is following procedures to punish the responsible soldiers and come up with countermeasures.


By Hur Jin, Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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