Former N Korean diplomat’s smartphone hacked presumably by N Korean group

18-Feb-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The phone of former North Korean diplomat Thae Yong-ho, who defected to the South in 2016, has been hacked into by an unknown group that is suspected of being North Korean, according to a Seoul-based security group ESTsecurity, Monday.

An official of the company said they found the name of Thae Gu-min, the new name used by Thae to evade tracking by Pyeongyang after his defection, in the second half of last year while investigating other related hacking incidents. They confirmed that he had been hacked.

The company suspects his text conversations, photos and other information on the phone were stolen through a hacking attack called “spear phishing” which targets a certain individual or business.

“There are other cases of personal information leaks as well, but we cannot specifically say that they were of other diplomats or high-level officials other than ambassador Thae Yong-ho’s case,” the official said.

“The attack patterns used for these cases were similar to those formerly used by North Korean hacking groups like ‘Kimsuky’ or ‘Geumseong121′ but there is a possibility that another hacking group used such attack patterns to give the impression of being a North Korean group.”

Geumseong121 is known to have attacked the websites of government departments, North Korea-related organisations and media officials while Kimsuky is known to have targeted servers of a famous resort and a large portal site.

Concerns have been raised that the personal information leak of Thae could threaten the safety of him and his family members in the South. Thae, who recently announced his bid for the April 15 general election under the main opposition Liberty Korea Party’s ticket, revealed his new name during his press conference on Sunday, saying he would run in the election as Thae Gu-min.

Regarding the hacking allegation, Thae said he believes the North regularly hacks into phones or computers of major figures and organisations in the South.

“I’ve been well aware of such hacking threats, so I’ve been exceptionally vigilant with an extraordinary sense of security, not leaving any valuable information on the phone and having phone conversations carefully,” he said in a message to reporters.


Category: Korea

Print This Post