Category Archives: East Asia – South Korea 🇰🇷

COVID-19: South Korea says North Korea ‘tried to hack’ Pfizer vaccine.

Advertisements

The North is also accused of a huge, $81 million cyber-heist from the Bangladesh Central Bank, as well as the theft of $60 million from Taiwan’s Far Eastern International Bank.

North Korean hackers tried to break into the computer systems of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in a search for information on a coronavirus vaccine and treatment technology, South Korea’s spy agency said Tuesday, according to reports.

Advertisements

The impoverished, nuclear-armed North has been under self-imposed isolation since closing its borders in January last year to try to protect itself from the virus that first emerged in neighbouring China and has gone on to sweep the world, killing more than two million people.

Leader Kim Jong Un has repeatedly insisted that the country has had no coronavirus cases, although outside experts doubt those assertions.

Advertisements

And the closure has added to the pressure on its tottering economy from international sanctions imposed over its banned weapons systems, increasing the urgency for Pyongyang to find a way to deal with the disease.

Seoul’s National Intelligence Service “briefed us that North Korea tried to obtain technology involving the Covid vaccine and treatment by using cyberwarfare to hack into Pfizer”, MP Ha Tae-keung told reporters after a parliamentary hearing behind closed doors.

This picture taken on February 11, 2021 and released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on February 12, 2021 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending a performance celebrating the Lunar New Year in North Korea.

North Korea is known to operate an army of thousands of well-trained hackers who have attacked firms, institutions and researchers in the South and elsewhere.

Advertisements

Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, developed jointly with Germany’s BioNTech, began winning approval from authorities late last year.

It is based on technology that uses the synthetic version of a molecule called “messenger RNA” to hack into human cells and effectively turn them into vaccine-making factories.

Pfizer says it expects to potentially deliver up to 2 billion doses in 2021.

The company’s South Korean office did not immediately respond to a request for comment by AFP.

Advertisements

Both it and BioNTech said in December that documents relating to their vaccine were “unlawfully accessed” during a cyberattack on a server at the European Medicines Agency, the EU’s medicine regulator.

The comments came after the Amsterdam-based EMA said it had been the victim of a hacking attack, without specifying when it took place or whether its work on Covid-19 was targeted.

Advertisements

Cyber-heists
The allegations come only a week after a confidential UN report seen by AFP said North Korea had stolen more than $300 million worth of cryptocurrencies through cyberattacks in recent months to support its weapons programmes.

Financial institutions and exchanges were hacked to generate revenue for Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development, the document said, with the vast majority of the proceeds coming from two thefts late last year.

Pyongyang’s cyberwarfare abilities first came to global prominence in 2014 when it was accused of hacking into Sony Pictures Entertainment as revenge for “The Interview”, a satirical film that mocked leader Kim.

Advertisements

The attack resulted in the posting of several unreleased movies as well as a vast trove of confidential documents online.

The North is also accused of a huge, $81 million cyber-heist from the Bangladesh Central Bank, as well as the theft of $60 million from Taiwan’s Far Eastern International Bank.

Pyongyang’s hackers were blamed for the 2017 WannaCry global ransomware cyberattack, which infected some 300,000 computers in 150 nations, encrypting user files and demanding hundreds of dollars from their owners for the keys to get them back.

Pyongyang has denied the accusations, saying it has “nothing to do with cyber-attacks”.

Advertisements

Nuclear talks between it and Washington have been stalled since a summit between Kim and then-president Donald Trump in February 2019 broke down over sanctions relief and what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in return.

North Korea showed off several new missiles at military parades in October and last month when Kim pledged to strengthen his nuclear arsenal.

Advertisements

#Newsworthy

Typhoon Haishen cause tree falls, knocks out power in South Korea.

Advertisements

Haishen, the country’s tenth typhoon this year, brought heavy rain, strong winds to areas north of Busan.

Typhoon Haishen made landfall just north of the South Korean city of Busan on Monday morning, cutting power to homes and factories, toppling trees, and forcing trains to be cancelled and flights grounded.

The storm, with heavy rain and powerful winds of as much as 126 km/h (78 mph), made landfall in Ulsan in the southeastern part of the Korean Peninsula at approximately 9am (02:00 GMT) on Monday morning, according to Yonhap news agency.

It knocked out power in some 30,000 homes as well as in factories belonging to Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Mobis, the country’s biggest car parts manufacturer. Across the country, 298 flights were cancelled and wind shear warnings issued.

Typhoon Haishen Japan
A landslide site caused by Typhoon Haishen as it passed through southwestern Japan. Local media reported four people missing in Shiiba Town in Miyazaki prefecture [Kyodo/via Reuters]
Haishen arrived in South Korea after battering Japan’s southern islands and cutting power to thousands of homes, but not causing major damage or injury.

Advertisements

Some 440,000 homes in the southwestern Kyushu region remained without power on Monday morning after the storm passed through, public broadcaster NHK reported.

It added that 32 people had been injured, including a woman who fell down a flight of stairs in the dark and four people who sustained cuts after the glass windows of an evacuation centre were blown in.

Almost 2 million people had been ordered to evacuate the region, which was still recovering from heavy rains and flooding in July that killed 83 people.

Typhoon Haishen follows just days after Typhoon Maysak smashed into the Korean Peninsula, leaving at least two dead and thousands without power.

Advertisements

The storm is forecast to weaken as it moves up the Peninsula during the day, reaching North Korea around midnight.

North Korea has borne the brunt of both Maysak and Typhoon Bavi, a storm the week before.

Live footage on state television showed trees shaking and waves rising in Tongchon county in Gangwon province bordering the South. The state broadcaster reported that all Tongchon residents had been evacuated.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited coastal areas after Maysak and ordered party members to join the relief effort.


#Newsworthy…