North Korean hackers targeting shipbuilding industry, spy agency says

By Dain Oh, The Readable
Oct. 4, 2023 9:33PM GMT+9

North Korean hackers have been targeting South Korean shipbuilding industry intensively with an aim to reinforce their maritime force, South Korean intelligence agency revealed on Wednesday.

The National Intelligence Service did not confirm whether the hackers succeeded in stealing industrial secrets, but said they spotted multiple attempts over the last two months.

“North Korean hackers tried to circumvent their target systems’ security by occupying third-party vendors while distributing phishing emails to internal employees of the targeted companies,” the spy agency disclosed in a press release.

The recent hacking attempts appeared to have been initiated by a direct order from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the NIS stated. After returning from a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, Kim Jong-un commanded his foreign missions to devote themselves to building warships, according to several news outlets which covered the second Putin-Kim Summit.

South Korea is one of the two largest shipbuilding nations, competing with China. According to a report by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, South Korea clinched 37% of the global orders last year, increasing its market share by 4%p. As for high-value vessels, such as large-scale LNG carriers, South Korean shipbuilders topped the global orders, accounting for 70% of the entire market share.

The NIS notified the targeted companies of the ongoing hacking attempts by North Korean hackers and supported security measures against them. In addition, the agency asked the nation’s major shipbuilding companies to review their security postures internally.

“Hacking attempts towards the shipbuilding industry are expected to continue,” South Korean intelligence agency warned relevant parties. “Security inspection on network and remote access software should be followed as well as paying attention to original sources of emails and websites,” added the agency.

The cover image of this article was designed by Sangseon Kim.

Dain Oh is a distinguished journalist based in South Korea, recognized for her exceptional contributions to the field. As the founder and editor-in-chief of The Readable, she has demonstrated her expertise in leading media outlets to success. Prior to establishing The Readable, Dain was a journalist for The Electronic Times, a prestigious IT newspaper in Korea. During her tenure, she extensively covered the cybersecurity industry, delivering groundbreaking reports. Her work included exclusive stories, such as the revelation of incident response information sharing by the National Intelligence Service. These accomplishments led to her receiving the Journalist of the Year Award in 2021 by the Korea Institute of Information Security and Cryptology, a well-deserved accolade bestowed upon her through a unanimous decision. Dain has been invited to speak at several global conferences, including the APEC Women in STEM Principles and Actions, which was funded by the U.S. State Department. Additionally, she is an active member of the Asian American Journalists Association, further exhibiting her commitment to journalism.