‘Korea needs to brace for massive cyber attacks’

‘Korea needs to brace for massive cyber attacks’
Cheri McGuire, vice president of Symantec.

SOUTH KOREA - Korea should be ready for massive cyber attacks and their repercussions, a top global security company's executive said.

"Attackers in cyber space are getting more sophisticated," California-based Symantec's vice president Cheri McGuire told The Korea Herald during a conference on cyber security in Seoul last week.

"They now take aim at specific organisations rather than luring victims by sending random emails like in the past."

She said the frequency of watering hole attacks, which target a particular group, saw a fast rise from last year. The attackers observe websites the group often uses and infects them with malware, a computer programme designed specifically to disrupt a system. This way, all the members who access the sites will get infected.

The vice president said, "The cyber terrorists have also evolved from sporadic individual hackers to massive criminal organisations. As they have advanced technologies with organizational and financial power, it can be a serious threat to neighbouring countries."

She added that the target attacks around the world jumped 42 per cent from last year.

"We should not overlook this issue. As the information communications technology industry takes up 6 per cent of gross world product, the harm on the industry will have massive implications," McGuire said.

Considering its significance, it is more complicated to identify and punish attackers than in the real world, she said. International cooperation between nations and business is vital, she stressed.

Currently, governments around the world are in talks with the United Nations to apply the global norm for territorial or diplomatic disputes in cyber space.

"Korea is no exception here as the country saw several major cyber attacks in the past years," she said. Korea's damage from North Korea's Distributed Denial of Service amounted to $800 million for the past four years, according to lawmaker Chung Hee-soo on Wednesday.

"Korea should have more international cooperation and strong regulation on cyber crime," she said. Earlier this month, the US and South Korea agreed to work together to strengthen cyber security when US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel met with South Korean Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin in Seoul. They reached an agreement to strengthen cooperation in information sharing, cyber policy, strategy and training in order to improve joint response to cyber threats.

Last week, Symantec signed a memorandum of understanding with Korea's National Police Agency's cyber terror response centre. The US company said it will provide the police with information from the global intelligence network, its data gathering system in response to cyber security threats. Next month, the company will host a mock attack test for the advanced persistent threat.

"Thorough preparation is the only way to protect citizens from massive cyber attacks. Korea should reinforce its security capacity from the cyber threats of neighbouring countries like North Korea and China," she said.

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