[Viewpoint] Are you ready for mobile terrorism?

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[Viewpoint] Are you ready for mobile terrorism?

This time, the attack was made on March 3. In 2009, it was on July 7. The distributed denial-of-service attack, or DDoS attack, temporarily made major Internet sites unavailable to users. The attack on March 3 targeted 40 sites, and access to many servers was denied. High profile online service at such sites as the Blue House, the National Intelligence Service, Kookmin Bank and Naver suffered from the attack.

The damage was not unexpected. In January 2010, when attention over the cyberattack from the summer before had subsided, I visited the headquarters of Symantec in Silicon Valley, the largest online security software provider, protecting one of every three e-mails sent around the world. CEO Enrique T. Salem warned that a cyberwar - without firing a single bullet - will break out all over the world, resulting in serious damage in many countries.

A DDoS attack is a relatively simple form of cyberattack. A hacker saturates a certain Web site’s Internet access, resulting in a delay or suspension of service. Let’s say there are 10 customer service windows at the Blue House. If some mastermind orders thousands of people to visit at the same time, the operation will become paralyzed.

Fortunately, the damage was not devastating this time, thanks to prompt repair efforts. The government and civilian groups that had been helplessly afflicted at the time of the July 7 cyberattack responded immediately and effectively after the first attempt, distributing vaccines and warnings.

However, we cannot rest assured. Cyberterrorism is the other face of the information technology age. When all services are connected online, cyberterrorism can happen anytime.

As the Internet brings the world together in real time, cybercrime is getting more and more serious. Criminals can easily cross borders, dodging the pursuit authorities. The mastermind of this large-scale DDoS attack has not been caught.

Hackers generally target major government and civilian Web sites, causing indiscriminate damage to the government, businesses and individuals. If operations in aviation, nuclear power generation, financial transactions, broadcasting and communication are suspended even for a moment, there will be a national emergency.

More serious consequences are expected if the military defense system is affected. What will happen if the radar network or radiation control is turned off or modified? It is a crisis that we cannot afford to experience. Because a cyberattack has unlimited destructive potential, governments around the world are paying special attention to cyberterrorism.

Is the security system in Korea solid?

Experts say there is a lot to be done. The techniques international cyberterrorists use are beyond Korea’s defense level. However, cybersecurity plans are generally focused on the type of DDoS attack that we have already experienced.

We have therefore not yet caught up with hackers who cross the border freely and constantly evolve. Although we had already suffered from a DDoS attack a few years ago, the Blue House, the “iron defense” of the National Intelligence Service and Naver were broken.

Why were they so helpless? Online security is a low priority for the government and companies.

Last year, the United States launched United States Cyber Command, and China’s People’s Liberation Army established its own Cyber Command.

After the July 7 cyberattack in 2009, the Korean government announced a national response plan to train 3,000 cybersheriffs called “White Hackers.”

However, when the public’s attention faded, policy plans quietly disappeared. At this rate, we will always have to mend the barn after the horse is stolen.

A greater challenge in the future is mobile security. The age of the smartphone has made cellular phones with mobile connectivity vulnerable to cyberattacks. The more useful smartphones become, the greater the danger of mobile terror grows.

*The writer is a fact checker at the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Lee Won-ho
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