Computer networks at two major South Korean banks and three top TV broadcasters went into shutdown mode en masse Wednesday, paralysing bank machines across the country and prompting speculation of a cyberattack by North Korea.
Screens went blank promptly at 2pm, with skulls popping up on the screens of some computers — a strong indication that hackers planted a malicious code in South Korean systems. Some computers started to get back online more than 2.5 hours later.
Police and South Korean officials investigating the shutdown said the cause was not immediately clear. But speculation centered on North Korea, with experts saying a cyberattack orchestrated by Pyongyang was likely to blame.
The shutdown comes amid rising rhetoric and threats of attack from Pyongyang in response to UN punishment for its December rocket launch and February nuclear test. Washington also expanded sanctions against North Korea this month in a bid to cripple the regime’s ability to develop its nuclear programme.
Accusations of cyberattacks on the Korean Peninsula are not new. Seoul believes Pyongyang was behind at least two cyberattacks on local companies in 2011 and 2012.
Xi offers Korean mediation
Chinese President Xi Jinping told his South Korean counterpart on Wednesday Beijing is willing to help “reconciliation” between Seoul and Pyongyang. “China is willing to provide the necessary assistance to advance South-North reconciliation and cooperation,” Xi told Park Geun-Hye. China is the North’s sole major ally.