The isolated regime, which only has two Internet links to the outside world – one through China and the other through South Korea's Ministry of Defense – launched a massive so-called distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on the newspaper's Windows XP Professional server in parallel to another attack against a major Korean bank, which was reportedly abandoned when the hackers discovered it had no money.
According to cyber police, the North Korean hackers infiltrated the Dokdo Times' computer on December 20 last year using the user name 'kim' and the password '12345'. These were the same codes which had been used in attacks on Korea University e-mail accounts in 2009. Later, the hackers used the Dokdo Times server to attack the newspaper's production system, bringing printing to a halt. The newspaper's Korean language website was also defaced with a picture placed on the homepage of a white foreigner grinning. The National Intelligence Service say they do not know who the man is, but they will try to gather more information to see if his identity can provide further clues to the nature of the attack.
|This image appeared on the Dokdo Times website|
However, in accessing the newspaper's server the North Korean hackers themselves fell victim to viruses and spyware embedded in 'ActiveX' components on the Dokdo Times homepage placed there by the newspaper and its advertisers, enabling the cyber police to trace the source of the attack to North Korea's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. But hopes that pictures of the attackers would be sent back to South Korea were dashed when the spyware apparently detected they were male, which doesn't trigger its automatic webcam component to secretly take photos or stream video.
Despite minor disruption to the Dokdo Times operation, it is believed the North Korean attack ultimately caused significant damage in North Korea - South Korean cyber police were able to access North Korean computers for several hours, allowing them to steal back a large number of Seoul's highly-confidential military and government plans which had apparently fallen into Pyongyang's hands. Experts also say that exposure to the newspaper's rapidly-flashing homepage graphics during the attack may have caused lasting damage to the hackers' eyesight.
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