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Seoul: Use of China Server in Cyberattack Fits Pyongyang M.O.

Seoul: Use of China Server in Cyberattack Fits Pyongyang M.O.

Today in international tech news: North Korea is the focus of suspicions for Wednesday's massive cyberattack on South Korea; a Chinese university group that monitors students' online activities wins an award; a new Asian app sets its sights on the US; and an online ad scam leads to impossible page view totals for an oral hygiene site.

North Korea is the suspected perpetrator of a hacking attack that knocked out a trio of South Korean broadcasters and two major banks on Wednesday.

South Korean officials in the capital of Seoul traced the attack to a server in China, something that meshes with previous attacks by North Korea.

The attack affected more than 30,000 computers at the broadcasters and banks. Some computer screens reportedly flashed images of skulls with glowing red eyes and audio of cryptic laughter. An expert quoted by the Yonhap news service said that some code looked like it originated from Western Europe, but added that the code also reeked of a disguise.

It will take up to five days for functions to be restored.

Despite one government official directly blaming Pyongyang, South Korea's computer crime authorities said it will take months to establish concrete evidence of North Korea's culpability -- or anyone's culpability, for that matter.

South Korea suspects North Korea of having carried out 70,000 cyberattacks over the past five years. The biggest attack believed to have come from North Korea took place in 2011 -- a 10-day denial of service bombardment that antivirus firm McAfee called "Ten Days of Rain".

[Sources: Reuters, Los Angeles Times]

Chinese Students Who Snoop Win Award

Baiyun University's "Students' Internet and Social Media Information Monitoring" unit -- which was dubbed the "Internet Red Army" by other students for its monitoring of students' online activities and conversations -- recently received a "distinguished college student management project" award from Guangdong province.

The group was formed in 2010 and is overseen by "counselors" who monitor what their classmates do on Weibo (which is akin to Twitter), Baidu Tieba (a network of online communities) and QQ (a wildly popular IM service). The group's goals would have made Mao Zedong happy: Control negative sentiment, monitor online conversations and correct opinions that need correcting.

The project was reportedly conceived in 2010 after an inaccurate Weibo post said that students at Baiyun had died.

Currently, six students, who use university computers, work roughly 90 minutes a day for about 8 yuan (US$1.25) per hour.

[Source: Off Beat China]

Asian Chat App Gunning for US

An Asian chat app called Line is setting up a U.S. marketing team and coordinating joint promotions and content-delivery agreements in the hopes of taking on Twitter.

Thirty-eight percent of Line's users are in Japan, but the company wants to "capture North America," according to its chief strategy and marketing officer, who added that the company is currently eschewing profits in the name of expansion.

Line is part of a cluster of Asia-based apps trying to challenge the U.S.'s dominion over mobile communication and social media platforms. KakaoTalk (South Korea) and WeChat (China), for instance, are each zealously expanding into foreign markets, trying to take on WhatsApp, Skype, Twitter and Facebook.

Line is available on Android, iPhone, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. It has topped the list of Apple's free downloads in 41 different countries, according to Japan's NHN. Bloomberg]

More Details on Online Ad Scam

Details continue to emerge about an online ad scam revealed Tuesday by London-based analytics firm Spider.

The scam reportedly worked by tricking brands, including McDonald's and Disney, into paying for their ads to be shown to botnets, not to interested netizens.

With robots clicking away, the scam resulted in an obscure site specializing in oral hygiene news racking up more visitors than The Economist.

[Source: Paid Content, Spider]


David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author of The Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out his ECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.


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