South Korea hit by cyber attack

MANILA, Philippines (5TH UPDATE) - As of 5 pm. (Philippine time), Yonhap updated its reports with information from the South Korean government, with the government pointing to malicious code from unknown hackers causing computer network failures at a number of television stations, banks, and insurance firms on Wednesday, March 20.

According to the update, the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), and Yonhap Television News (YTN), the Shinhan, Nonghyup and Jeju banks, and two insurance firms reported the halting of their computer networks for unknown reasons to the National Police Agency. Another bank, Woori Bank, also came under an apparent attack but was able to defend itself using an internal system.

No additional information was revealed.

To understate how seriously the South Korean government is taking this issue, a press briefing by presidential spokeswoman Kim Haing mentioned that Kim Jang-soo, who has been named to head the national security office at Cheong Wa Dae, is investigating the matter. Kim Haing also added that the government "will inform the public in detail as soon as the situation becomes clear."

Kim Jang-soo is being briefed by the defense ministry, the national intelligence agency, the police and some additional national agencies. South Korean president President Park Geun-hye, who was briefed by Kim Jang-soo, instructed him to take necessary measures.

Yonhap originally wrote that at least 3 broadcasters and two banks reported their computer networks halted around 2 pm. (South Korean time). 

The broadcasters whose computer networks were reportedly affected are Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), and Yonhap Television News (YTN). Shinhan Bank, South Korea's first bank, and Nonghyup, the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, were also affected.

An official from KBS was quoted as saying, "The computer network has been paralyzed since 2 p.m. and we cannot do any business." A YTN official said YTN's computer network and editing equipment for broadcasting were paralyzed, adding that YTN was "figuring out the exact cause and it is expected to affect the broadcast."

The Korea Herald adds that a police officer handling cyberterrorism at the National Police Agency said investigators were deployed to the affected places, "after receiving multiple reports of damage simultaneously."

The officer added, "We are reviewing various possibilities including cyberterrorism." 

The presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, is looking into the possibility of North Korean involvement into the network crash.

As of 3:30 pm. (Philippine time), the South Korean military said it upgraded its information surveillance status one notch, with the defense ministry saying its computer network was operating normally.

A Yonhap update notes that the the National Computing and Information Agency (NCIA), which oversees the computer networks of South Korea's government organizations, asserted its system was working normally and without errors. Rappler.com