Intelligence agency discovers malicious code in Chinese-made device

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Jul. 20, 2023 7:53PM GMT+9

The South Korean intelligence agency disclosed on Wednesday that last month they discovered malware embedded inside a measuring instrument made in China.

In a press conference, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) stated that the vulnerable device was one of the supplies provided to government organizations. This is the first time that the country’s intelligence agency detected Chinese products compromised with malicious code.

The NIS is looking into potential security flaws in similar Chinese-made equipment, including surveillance cameras and network devices. After the intelligence agency finished probing into 30% of the total products that they planned to investigate, they discovered an additional vulnerability inside another device.

“There is a large number of requests related to the verification of Chinese made information and communication technology products,” stated Baek Jong-wook, the third deputy director of the NIS, during the press conference. “South Korea and the United States intelligence services will work together and conduct joint analysis and research. Results will be released to the public if necessary.”

The South Korean government has been keeping a close eye on information technology devices. Last April, the NIS conducted a thorough investigation to figure out whether government organizations are using any equipment that is on the international sanctions list. The Readable reached out to the NIS and requested comment on the relationship between the two investigations but did not receive an immediate answer.

Meanwhile, the intelligence agency explained that there have been 1.37 million hacking attempts per day on average in the first half of this year, which is a 15% increase compared to the same period last year. Most attempts have been attributed to North Korean state-sponsored hackers, making up 70% of the total attempts. Chinese linked hackers followed suit, adding up to 4%.

The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang.

Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.