South Korea suspects North of cyberattacks

South Korea suspects North of cyberattacks
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South Korea says it has reason to believe North Korea is carrying out cyberattacks against southern targets, according to a Wednesday report.

“At this point, we suspect it is an act by North Korea,” a spokesman for the South’s Unification Ministry told Reuters when asked about reports that the North had attempted digital strikes.

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The official said the South is investigating the alleged attacks, but provided no further details.

South Korea has been on high alert since the North claimed to have conducted a successful hydrogen bomb test on Jan. 6, in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

Although U.S. officials have expressed doubt that Pyongyang achieved such a feat — experts say the size of the blast was not large enough to have been an H-bomb — tensions have been rising between the neighbors.

Since the detonation, there have been a series of unconfirmed reports that South Korean government agencies have been infected by malware planted by North Korea. Meanwhile, the North continues to use balloons to drop propaganda leaflets in the South. 

Last week, South Korean President Park Geun-hye warned that North Korea’s capabilities included the use of cyberwarfare tactics, something defectors from the North have said the country’s military-run spy agency actively conducts.

Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have also escalated since the detonation, with Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryFor the sake of national security, Trump must honor the Iran deal Bernie Sanders’s 1960s worldview makes bad foreign policy DiCaprio: History will ‘vilify’ Trump for not fighting climate change MORE on Wednesday calling the country "a declared threat to the world."

Experts have warned that North Korea is developing significant military and clandestine cyber capabilities that could be turned on the United States. 

"The North is developing its cyber capabilities in tandem with its other asymmetric threats, and has embedded these capabilities in party and military institutions," Victor Cha, the Korea chairman at the Center on Strategic and International Studies, told lawmakers during an October hearing on Capitol Hill. 

“This potentially means that cyber operations could become more than just criminal acts, but could be integrated in the future with a military strategy designed to disrupt U.S. systems,” Cha said.

Lawmkers in the U.S. have expressed concerns that the U.S. has become complacent about North Korea's cyber capabilities in the year since the infamous attack on Sony Pictures, blamed on Pyongyang.

In October, a trio of Republican senators introduced legislation that would force President Obama to create a strategy to thwart and sanction North Korean hackers.

“While our nation’s attention is rightly focused on the Middle East, the North Korean threat has grown exponentially, while there seems to be a falling asleep, so to speak, at the switch when it comes to North Korea,” one of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerRepublicans jockey for position on immigration Bipartisan bill would toughen North Korea sanctions, require Trump's strategy GOP senators push for delay of ObamaCare insurer tax MORE (R-Colo.), said during the same hearing.

The U.S. has blamed North Korea for the devestating Sony hack, which coincided with the release of a film portraying a fictional assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Last January, the White House authorized a slate of economic sanctions against the country. 

North Korea is also thought to be behind a series of attacks on South Korean banks and broadcasting companies in 2013, according to researchers.