A computer virus effecting thousands of personal computers across the world has attacked key public and private websites in South Korea as well as some US government websites, in a series of distributed denial of services (DDoS) attacks some are calling the first salvos in a “cyber war.”
South Korea’s spy agency was quick to point the finger at North Korea at a time when tensions between the two nations have been worsening, however some experts caution against hasty conclusions, with one noting that the malicious software appeared to have originated from a US-based IP address.
The attacks appear to have done little harm to US websites and only intermittantly knocked out South Korean sites, but the timing is extremely fortuitous for the Pentagon, which only weeks ago created a controversial new “Cyber Command” post to fight online wars. The attacks will likely serve to quell privacy concerns about the Pentagon’s new program.
South Korea is uniquely vulnerable to the spread of such virii given laws which virtually mandate the use of ActiveX controls for encrypted transactions, resulting in a de facto requirement to use Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer.
Yet analysts say that the US has very limited options in the so-called cyber war. Even if the North Korean government is ultimately implicated in the attack, the US has no diplomatic relationships to sever, and the lack of material damage will likely make it difficult to sell the attacks as a pretext for a military response.