North Korea hacked South Korean warship blueprints, report says

North Korean soldiers at the military demarcation line separating North and South Korea at the truce village of Panmunjom.
North Korean soldiers at the military demarcation line separating North and South Korea at the truce village of Panmunjom. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - North Korea stole blueprints of missile-equipped ships and unspecified submarines in a heist last year of classified documents from the world's biggest shipbuilder, the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper reported, citing opposition party lawmaker Kyeong Dae Soo.

About 60 classified military documents were among the 40,000 hacked from South Korea's Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Co in April 2016, the newspaper said. They included information on construction technology, blueprints, weapons systems, and evaluations of the ships and submarines.

South Korea's Aegis-equipped ships and submarines are key to plans for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea should it send a submarine equipped with ballistic missiles to target key facilities in the South.

Kyeong told the newspaper that he received a briefing on the hack from South Korea's Defence Ministry, which inspected the shipbuilder for six months.

Earlier this month, another South Korean lawmaker said that North Korean hackers stole military plans developed by the US and South Korea last year that included a highly classified "decapitation strike" against leader Kim Jong Un.

Kim's regime has been developing cyber capabilities as trade sanctions and a debilitated domestic economy make it difficult to invest in conventional military capabilities. It has been accused of hacking everything from Sony Corp to Bangladesh's central bank to bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

North Korea on Monday (Oct 30) denied an accusation that it hacked Britain's National Health Service.

A third of Britain’s public hospitals were affected by the WannaCry worm in May, according to a government report. The worm, which seized systems and demanded payment in Bitcoin to return control to users, also attacked 300,000 computers in 150 countries.

Some researchers have pointed the finger at Pyongyang, saying that the code used was similar to past hacks blamed on Kim Jong Un's regime.

"We made it very clear that the DPRK had no connection at all with acts of cybercrime," the official Korean Central News Agency reported, citing a spokesman from the Korea-Europe Association who used the country's formal name.

"The moves of the UK government to doggedly associate the DPRK with the cyberattack cannot be interpreted in any other way than a wicked attempt to lure the international community into harbouring greater mistrust of the DPRK," the spokesman added.

According to the South Korean government, the North has a 6,800-strong unit of trained cyberwarfare specialists.