SAN FRANCISCO — Cyber attacks on US and South Korean military websites in March may have been a test by North Korea or sympathizers, according to a report released Tuesday by computer security firm McAfee.
"The combination of technical sophistication juxtaposed with relatively limited execution and myopic outcome is analogous to bringing a Lamborghini to a go-cart race," McAfee said in its findings.
"As such, the motivations appear to outweigh the attack, making this truly seem like an exercise to test and observe response capabilities.
Banking, military and government websites in South Korea and sites for US forces in that country were hit with distributed denial of service attacks on March 4th in a strike very similar to a cyber assault 20 months earlier, according to McAfee security researcher Georg Wicherski.
The DDoS attacks were made by usurping control of virus-infected computers in South Korea to overwhelm targeted websites with simultaneous requests for pages or information, the report indicated.
"This may have been a test of South Korea's preparedness to mitigate cyber attacks, possibly by North Korea or their sympathizers," McAfee said in a report titled "Ten Days of Rain."
McAfee security researchers said it was 95 percent likely that the same culprits behind the July 4, 2009 cyber attacks were involved with the online assault in March of this year.
"We believe this incident... has very clear anti-Korean and anti-US political motivations and potentially is even more insidious," Wicherski said in a blog post.
"This may very well have been a test, an armed cyber reconnaissance operation of sorts...to test the defenses and more importantly the reaction time of the Korean government and civilian networks to a well-organized and highly obfuscated attack," he continued.
"Knowing that would be invaluable in a possible future armed confrontation on the peninsula, since cyberspace has already become the fifth battlespace dimension, in addition to land, air, sea and space."