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More web attacks hit, North Korea suspected
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SEOUL: A fresh wave of cyber attacks that slowed US and South Korean websites this week hit more targets on Thursday, a Web security firm said,
while the South's spy agency has said the hacking may be linked to North Korea.

The impact of the attacks, aimed so far at dozens of sites including the White House and the South's presidential office, was seen as negligible, experts said, but served as a reminder that Pyongyang has been planning for cyber warfare.

"The anticipated attack did take place, but considerable counter-measures were taken and it did act as a defense to some degree," an official at the online security firm Ahnlab said.

Some government websites, including the Defense Ministry and the National Intelligence Service, were affected. Access to some U.S. government sites, including the State and Defense Department, from South Korea appeared to be disabled.

The Internet sites of some South Korean banks also experienced a surge in access requests but a bank official said programs were run to disperse traffic and bring service back up within an hour.

If the North was responsible, it would mark an escalation in tension already high from Pyongyang's nuclear test in May, a barrage of ballistic missiles in July and repeated taunts of long-time foes Seoul and Washington in its official media.

But some analysts raised doubts about the North's involvement, saying it may be the work of industrial spies or pranksters.

One online expert was quoted as telling a South Korean daily that tracking of the spread of the malicious software by showed it had originated from an IP address based in United States.

The attacks will likely be regarded by the North's leadership as a victory for Kim Jong-il -- even if Pyongayng was not behind them -- because they hurt the country's traditional foes, adding a new dimension to the threat level posed by the reclusive state.

The attacks saturated target websites with access requests generated by malicious software planted on personal computers. This has overwhelmed some targeted sites and slowed server response to legitimate traffic.

PYONGYANG PLANS FOR CYBER WARFARE

The attacks did not lead to a breach of sensitive government material or damage online infrastructure in South Korea, the world's most wired country, government officials said.

But the National Intelligence Service said in a statement it was stepping up alert to monitor potential attack against the network of energy and communications facilities.
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