Red flags in cyberspace

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Red flags in cyberspace

Less than a week after last Wednesday’s malicious cyberattacks against three major television networks and two banks, the servers of Daily NK and Free North Korea Radio, among others, suffered presumed hacks yesterday afternoon. The two anti-North Korea Web sites have been operating in Seoul for years. It is certainly worth noting that the two sites, which are hated by Pyongyang, were attacked on the third anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Cheonan warship in a North Korean torpedo attack along the tense maritime border in the Yellow Sea.

The computer networks of municipal governments across the country also suffered temporary disruptions yesterday morning. As the connection device of the government’s integrated computer network in Daejeon was dangerously overloaded with traffic, a number of citizens experienced problems connecting to the administrative portals of eight local governments for 40 minutes. That included metropolises like Seoul, Incheon and Gwangju, and provinces like Gyeonggi, Gangwon, South and North Jeolla and Jeju Island.

Despite the government’s explanation that it is not a hacking or distributed denial-of-service attack from the outside, the network breakdown in local governments is dangerous enough to make people more anxious, particularly amid the emergency situation in the wake of last week’s cyberattacks against our infrastructure.

The central government must quickly calm the fears of the people by launching a thorough investigation. Given the gravity of the situation, it should detect any potential loopholes in the government’s core telecommunication networks, as well as those of the civilian sector, through a full-fledged security checkup. In particular, the government must put top priority on ensuring the cybersecurity of major infrastructure such as power plants, water and sewage systems, railways and hospitals all across the nation, as cyberattacks on such pivotal facilities can cause an unfathomable damage.

The government should then prepare an effective system to avert damages from future cyberattacks, even if it takes a long time. Now is the time for the government to include cyberattacks in the concept of national security. Above all, it must come up with a comprehensive security management system that would combine the public, civilian and military sectors.

Cybersecurity is a totally new security concept without public and private sector divides, not to mention a critical absence of national borders. The government also must devise a detailed phase-by-phase manual to efficiently deal with any future cyber-contingencies - just like the existing civil defense exercises for a war situation. Cybersecurity ultimately depends on the government as well as the people.
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