[Weekend Briefing] Between fake and real

By Dain Oh, The Readable
Mar. 8, 2024 11:08PM GMT+9

“Weekend Briefing” is a weekly newsletter sent to subscribers of The Readable every Friday. Our journalists select important news items from the previous week on topics ranging from privacy to policy development in cybersecurity, all to help you stay abreast of the latest breaking issues. And not only is this provided free of cost to our subscribers, but the briefing contains new content exclusive to subscribers, such as our insightful industrial reports.

The South Korean police are initiating a crackdown on deepfake videos, which are causing unsettling impacts on society, including the potential to disrupt upcoming elections. Perpetrators are rapidly embracing new technologies to generate profits and have reportedly amassed over half a million dollars by circulating fake news on YouTube. Later this month, South Korea is set to host global leaders for the Summit for Democracy, an event which the United States government considered when announcing sanctions on a spyware company as part of its efforts to safeguard democratic processes.

A cybersecurity firm based in South Korea has uncovered fake Notion websites. Furthermore, more stories are featured this week on a variety of topics, including space security, bureaucratic changes within the foreign ministry aimed at bolstering international cyber cooperation, and ongoing controversies within the Japanese technology industry.

This is Dain Oh reporting from South Korea, and here is your weekend briefing.

1. South Korean chip makers targeted by hackers from North, spy agency warns

Designed by Areum Hwang, The Readable

South Korea’s semiconductor industry has become a significant target for North Korean hackers, with two companies recently falling victim to their attacks.

It is believed that the hackers, who managed to steal computer chip blueprints and photographs of facilities, are seeking to secure knowledge that would enable North Korea to develop its own chips. This initiative aims to circumvent international sanctions imposed on the Pyongyang regime, designed to prevent the North from acquiring the essential technology needed for chip manufacturing, according to a statement from a spy agency. READ MORE

2. Counterfeit Notion website distributes malware to harvest user data

Screen capture of phishing website of Notion. Source: AhnLab

A counterfeit installer for Notion, a popular collaboration platform boasting over 30 million users globally, has been identified. This fraudulent installer is designed to disseminate malware with the intent of stealing personal data, including cryptocurrency details.

On February 27, AhnLab, a cybersecurity firm based in South Korea, identified phishing pages that were distributing malicious files. Two days following their discovery, AhnLab announced that the malware was being spread via three websites, which bear a striking resemblance to the official Notion website. READ MORE

3. South Korean police to fight deepfakes ahead of general election

Designed by Areum Hwang, The Readable

South Korean authorities are ramping up efforts to combat deepfake videos, recognizing these deceptive materials as a significant threat to the integrity of the country’s general election scheduled for April.

The Korean National Police Agency (KNPA) unveiled on Tuesday its adoption of new deepfake detection software, which will be immediately integrated into their investigative processes. The agency clarified that the time required to determine whether digital content has been artificially generated using AI technology could range from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the video’s length and quality. READ MORE

4. US sanctions spyware company before third democracy summit

Designed by Daeun Lee, The Readable

The United States Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on a network associated with Intellexa Consortium, a Greece-based spyware company. This action comes ahead of the third Summit for Democracy, which is scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.

In a press release on Tuesday, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it had blacklisted two individuals and five entities associated with the Intellexa Consortium. They are accused of developing, operating, and distributing malicious software allegedly used to target U.S. government officials, journalists, and policy experts. READ MORE

5. Research institutions join forces to enhance space security of South Korea

Designed by Areum Hwang, The Readable

Two South Korean research institutions are set to collaborate with the goal of enhancing the nation’s defense capabilities in space and cybersecurity.

On March 5, the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) revealed it had signed a letter of intent with the Defense Security Institute (DSI) to facilitate the exchange of research and technology in military defense. ETRI stated that this partnership aims to support research and development (R&D) efforts in space and cybersecurity for military applications. READ MORE

6. South Korea’s foreign ministry to introduce Ambassador for International Cyber Cooperation

Designed by Areum Hwang, The Readable

South Korea’s foreign ministry is set to rename the position of one of its high-ranking officials, marking a step in its strategy to bolster its capabilities in the cyber domain.

On March 8, multiple local news outlets reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced plans to revise the title of the Ambassador for International Security Affairs to “Ambassador for International Cyber Cooperation.” This change is part of a broader initiative to enhance the ministry’s focus and capabilities in the cyber domain. Presently, the foreign ministry oversees three ambassadors, each responsible for distinct areas: public diplomacy, climate change, and international security affairs. READ MORE

7. Japan directs Line Yahoo to separate from South Korean Naver Cloud

Designed by Areum Hwang, The Readable

On March 5, the Japanese government directed LY Corporation (Line Yahoo) to sever ties with South Korea’s Naver Cloud Corporation. This decision comes in the wake of a data breach incident. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) pointed to LY’s excessive reliance on Naver Cloud as the primary cause of the security lapse.

LY Corporation disclosed on its official website on November 27, 2023, that a data breach involving unauthorized access had occurred within LINE Corporation. LINE, a widely used Japanese messaging application, boasts a monthly user base of over 95 million, representing more than 70% of Japan’s population. The breach was traced back to a subcontractor’s personal computer, infected with malware, under the employ of Naver Cloud. Naver Cloud and LY Corporation utilize a shared internal system, protected by a unified authentication mechanism. It was discovered on October 9, 2023, that an external party had gained unauthorized access to the LINE system via Naver Cloud, a breach which led to the compromise of the personal data of over 510,000 users. READ MORE

8. Google establishes first Asia-Pacific cyber defense hub in Tokyo

Designed by Daeun Lee, The Readable

Tokyo has been chosen as the location for Google's inaugural cybersecurity hub, with the goal of strengthening cyber defense capabilities across the entire Asia-Pacific region.

On March 7, Google inaugurated a cybersecurity research center within its Tokyo office, as reported by several Japanese news outlets. The center is designed to function as a central hub, drawing in cybersecurity technologies from across the Asia-Pacific region. Google plans to invite engineers from South Korea, India, Australia, and Southeast Asian countries to collaborate, share technological insights, and engage in joint research efforts. READ MORE

9. YouTube channels earn $525,000 from fake news on soccer player, AI firm says

Designed by Daeun Lee, The Readable

A South Korean artificial intelligence company reported on Monday that over 190 YouTube channels have allegedly created hundreds of fake news videos about South Korean soccer player Lee Kang-in. These channels reportedly earned approximately 700 million won ($525,000) from their activities.

The AI company Pyler reported that after soccer player Lee Kang-in was involved in a dispute with the national team captain, Son Heung-min, just before the Asian Cup semifinal last month, they identified 361 instances of fake news about Lee on YouTube. Between February 14 and 27, 195 channels disseminated this misleading content, accumulating a total of 69 million views. Pyler estimated that the creators of these videos earned approximately $525,000 in profit as a result. READ MORE

10. Meet our new reporter: Minkyung Shin

Minkyung Shin serves as a reporting intern for The Readable, where she has channeled her passion for cybersecurity news. Her journey began at Dankook University in Korea, where she pursued studies in Journalism and Software Convergence Contents. During her university studies, Shin led a team project that developed an Augmented Reality (AR) Face Tracking Service application and authored a paper titled ‘AR Face Tracking Based on Service Content.’ In 2023, she expanded her experiences by interning at the Toronto-based non-profit organization, TCM, planning support programs for underprivileged children in the city. Through her diverse experiences, Shin has cultivated a broad perspective on cybersecurity. She is committed to delivering accurate and insightful cybersecurity news to readers worldwide.


The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang. This article was copyedited by Arthur Gregory Willers.

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.