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2009/07/08 10:53 KST
(3rd LD) Hackers shut down Web site of presidential office

SEOUL, July 8 (Yonhap) -- The official Web site of the South Korean presidential office was inaccessible Wednesday morning due to attacks by hackers who also cracked into government agencies and private firms, officials said.

   As of 10:00 a.m., the Web site of Cheong Wa Dae remained down as unidentified hackers continued their attacks that started Tuesday evening, said the government-run Korea Information Security Agency (KISA).

   After an initial attack that began around 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, the Web site returned to normal, but renewed attacks shut it down again, the agency said.

The so-called distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks hit 25 Internet sites, including 11 domestic ones, shutting them down for hours, KISA said. Other government agencies attacked include the National Assembly and the Ministry of Defense, with the Wweb sites of major lenders Shinhan Bank and Korea Exchange Bank brought down by the attack as well.

   The cyber attacks also affected the country's No. 1 portal Naver's e-mail service and online auctioneer eBay's South Korean site Auction.com, the agency said.

   A DDoS attack involves sending large amounts of data that renders Web servers unusable by obstructing communication between the intended server and the target. The attacks generally use multiple personal computers infected by a hacker, allowing the individual to drive more traffic to the target.

   KISA officials said most sites returned to normal as of 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday, though some sites remained unable to get access.

   If traffic to the affected sites increases, however, they could malfunction again as the attacks are still ongoing, the agency said.

   No major damage has been reported so far and police said they have begun an investigation into who might have been behind the attacks.

   Meanwhile, the telecom regulator Korea Communications Commission (KCC) issued a warning against the DDoS attack early Wednesday.

   The KCC said that it is harder to track down and halt DDoS attacks as they involve multiple machines at the same time.

   "The most urgent issue is to remove the virus from each individual personal computer exposed to hacker attacks," said an official at the KCC. "We have requested that internet service providers distribute a vaccine program to those users whose computers are infected."

   South Korea is one of the most wired nations in the world, with over two-thirds of its people having high-speed Internet access.