Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

March 20, 2013

Experts suspect North behind SKorea computer crash

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A cyberattack caused computer networks at major South Korean banks and top TV broadcasters to crash simultaneously Wednesday, paralyzing bank machines across the country and prompting speculation of North Korean involvement.

Screens went blank at 2 p.m. (0500 GMT), the state-run Korea Information Security Agency said, and more than seven hours later some systems were still down.

Police and South Korean officials couldn't immediately determine responsibility and North Korea's state media made no immediate comments on the shutdown. But some experts suspected a cyberattack orchestrated by Pyongyang. The rivals have exchanged threats amid joint U.S.-South Korean military drills and in the wake of U.N. sanctions meant to punish North Korea over its nuclear test last month.

The network paralysis took place just days after North Korea accused South Korea and the U.S. of staging a cyberattack that shut down its websites for two days last week. Loxley Pacific, the Thailand-based Internet service provider, confirmed the North Korean outage but did not say what caused it.

The South Korean shutdown did not affect government agencies or potential targets such as power plants or transportation systems, and there were no immediate reports that bank customers' records were compromised, but the disruption froze part of the country's commerce.

Some customers were unable to use the debit or credit cards that many rely on more than cash. At one Starbucks in downtown Seoul, customers were asked to pay for their coffee in cash, and lines formed outside disabled bank machines.

Shinhan Bank, a major South Korean lender, reported a two-hour system shutdown, including online banking and automated teller machines. It said networks later came back online and that banking was back to normal. Shinhan said no customer records or accounts were compromised.

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