PyeongChang 2018 Olympics Targeted In Hacking Campaign
Hackers "targeted an attack" at organizations involved in next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea and "tried to access sensitive information," cyber security company McAfee said in a report, according to Hannah Kuchler of the FINANCIAL TIMES. McAfee discovered a hacking campaign that ran from Dec. 22 that it believes has the hallmarks of "a nation state adversary that speaks Korean." The company would "not attribute the attack, because it is continuing its investigation." Targets including ice hockey teams and ski suppliers were sent an email "purporting to be from South Korea’s national counter-terrorism council." It contained a "malicious document that if enabled would create a hidden back channel inside their computers for hackers to exploit." McAfee senior analyst Ryan Sherstobitoff said that the hackers "cast a wide net," including emailing generic addresses such as those beginning "info@" and it appeared that "at least one of the recipients was infected by the malicious document." Sherstobitoff said, "Theoretically, if they get into the network hosting the PyeongChang email network for the Olympics, they have any number of possibilities moving inside. It depends where the networks are connected -- to specific teams, committees, planners at a high level" (FT, 1/7). The BBC reported the emails were sent from a Singaporean IP address and "told readers to open a text document in Korean." In some cases, the hackers used a technique known as "steganography," which "hides malware in text and images." McAfee "echoed recent warnings" from University of California researchers to "expect more cyber-attacks targeting major sporting events." The security firm said, "With the upcoming Olympics, we expect to see an increase in cyber attacks using Olympics-related themes" (BBC, 1/8).
CHALLENGING TALKS: BLOOMBERG's Kanga Kong reported South Korean officials will "face a challenge as tough as any Olympic feat this week: Drawing the North Koreans back to talks without undermining the U.S.’s hard line against Kim Jong Un." The first high-level meeting in more than two years on Tuesday is the "best chance to resurrect negotiations on Kim's nuclear weapons program since U.S. President Donald Trump took office." The talks also represent a "moment of risk" for an alliance that has endured since the Korean War. South Korea President Moon Jae-in does not want to "endanger American-led efforts to isolate Kim" until the North Korean leader agrees to "abandon his nuclear weapons program" (BLOOMBERG, 1/7).
DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS: KYODO reported the South Korean Foreign Ministry said that Japanese and South Korean representatives to the six-party talks on North Korea denuclearization agreed Monday to "step up diplomatic efforts" in a way that the recent "peace momentum" on the Korean Peninsula could lead to resolving the North Korea nuclear issue. The ministry said that the two nations also agreed to "maintain close communication in pursuit of the goal of peacefully resolving the North Korea nuclear issue" (KYODO, 1/8).
EXTENDED STAY: BELTA reported South Korea's Ministry of Justice said that it will "grant a special extended stay" for foreign visitors coming to the country to see the Winter Games. The special permit will allow them to "extend their visiting period for up to 30 days," according to the ministry. Those who wish to get the extension can apply for it at the Immigration Office with the submission of required documents. Foreign visitors on short-term stays or visa-free travel are allowed to stay for up to 90 days. With the special extension, the visitors will be given up to 120 days in Korea (BELTA, 1/8).
N. KOREAN DEADLINE: REUTERS' Karolos Grohmann reported the IOC extended the deadline for registration of North Korean athletes for the PyeongChang Olympics and is "planning more talks with all sides." The IOC, which is "eager to have North Korean athletes at the Games," did not say until when the registration deadline had been extended but "most sports have completed their Olympic qualifying events" (REUTERS, 1/8).