Hackers say they have leaked personal details of tens of thousands of US troops to Web sites, South Korean news reports and online security officials said yesterday, a day after cyberattacks disabled access to government and news sites.
The hacking attacks on Tuesday, the anniversary of the start of the Korean War in 1950, brought down the main Web sites of South Korea’s presidential office and some local newspapers, prompting cybersecurity officials to raise the alert.
The identity and motives of the attackers were not immediately clear, but the reports come as cybersecurity and surveillance have become a global issue, with the US seeking fugitive former security contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked details about US surveillance to the media.
North Korea has been blamed for previous cyberattacks on South Korean banks and government networks, although it denies responsibility and has said it has also been a victim.
The unidentified hackers said they had secured and released publicly personal details of more than 2 million South Korean ruling party workers and 40,000 US troops, including those stationed in South Korea.
“We have seen the sites where the details were posted and clips that supposedly capture the process of hacking into Web sites,” an official at the South Korean online security firm NSHC said.
The legitimacy of the information could not be verified, said the official, who requested anonymity.
An official at the South Korean Ministry of Communications said authorities were probing the nature of the attacks and declined to comment on the reports of leaked information about US troops.
The US military in South Korea, where 28,500 US troops are stationed, did not immediately comment.
North and South Korea remain technically at war after their 1950-1953 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The US troops’ presence is aimed at ensuring the truce holds.
News reports said personal details such as the dates of birth and ranks of 40,000 US troops, including members of the 25th Infantry Division and the 3rd Marine Division, were leaked to unspecified Web sites.
The Web sites of the presidential Blue House and the prime minister’s office were down for more than six hours on Tuesday.
North Korea is believed to be running a large corps of computer experts aimed at hacking into the networks of governments and financial institutions, and was blamed most notably for the 2011 shutdown of a South Korean commercial bank.
Last week it accused the US of being at the forefront of rights abuse, pointing to Snowden’s revelations of mass surveillance operations by the US’ National Security Agency.