Dangerous times for the South Korean railway system may be a reality. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service has accused Pyongyang of attempting to hack into railway control systems and wiretap officials’ smartphones as tensions continue to mount on the peninsula.
The National Intelligence Service (NIS) said in a press release on Tuesday that North Korean hackers penetrated the smartphones of dozens of senior South Korean officials, stealing text and voice messages, Yonhap news agency reported.
The intelligence service also claimed the North’s cyber-attacks targeted e-mails of South Korean railway workers in attempts to gain control over railroad control systems.
he NIS said it detected hacking attempts by the North against employees of two regional railway networks this year, but did not elaborate on the specific objectives of the attacks. It also added that the hacking attempts against the railway workers had been interrupted and their e-mail accounts closed.
“The move was a step to prepare for cyber terror against the railway transport control system,” the agency said, as quoted by Reuters. As part of tightened safety measures, all subway lines in Seoul have stepped up their network security.
The intelligence service also warned that North Korea is “likelier than ever” to carry out more hacking attacks after the international community toughened sanctions last week.
According to accounts by defectors from the North, the secretive country is building up its cyber capabilities that enable it to disrupt or destroy computer systems controlling telecommunications and other utilities, Reuters reported.
Due to the North Korean government’s isolation policy, most online services for individuals and institutions are distributed through a free domestic-only intranet known as Kwanmyong. Access to the global internet is available only to a limited number of users, including the government and foreigners under special authorization.
North Korea has been repeatedly accused of hacking attempts against its southern neighbor as well as worldwide. In 2013, Seoul blamed Pyongyang for crippling cyber-attacks that froze the network systems of its banks and broadcasters for days.