By Dain Oh, The Readable
Oct. 13, 2023 9:30PM GMT+9
“Weekend Briefing” is a weekly newsletter that is sent to The Readable’s subscribers every Friday. Journalists for The Readable select important news stories from the previous week. Topics encompass privacy, cybercrime, and policy development in cybersecurity. There are no costs involved with a subscription, and some content, such as industrial reports, is only available to those who subscribe to our newsletters.
Hello! This is Dain Oh reporting from South Korea. Last Wednesday, the Korean Association of Cybersecurity Studies (KACS), the six-month-old organization and the only academic institution recognized by the nation’s intelligence agency, held its first large-scale conference in Seoul. More than a hundred experts spoke at the KACS 2023 Fall Conference where they addressed the significance of international cooperation in response to emerging cyberthreats. To make cybersecurity efficient, good values, such as working together and sharing information, have become more important than ever. The Readable covered this event in person, and I have included three articles about this briefing.
Next week, Kuksung Nam will attend the Singapore International Cyber Week (SICW) 2023 to report directly from the event. The SICW is the Asia-Pacific’s most established cybersecurity conference and is organized by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore. A number of world-class cybersecurity and privacy professionals will assemble at the SICW, and our readers will be able to learn about them through The Readable’s platform in upcoming days. Moreover, I have added three more news items to this briefing, regarding Samsung’s former employee, President Yoon Suk-yeol’s speech, and North Korean hacking group respectively. Enjoy the stories, and we wish you a wonderful weekend!
1. Countries form blocs with allies to defend against cyber threats, says expert
Seoul ― KACS 2023 Fall Conference ― Countries will continue to intensify their efforts to form blocs with like-minded nations to defend themselves against adversaries in cyberspace, according to a military and security expert on Wednesday.
Song Tae-eun, an assistant professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, spoke on the complexities of cyberspace during a symposium hosted by the Korean Association of Cybersecurity Studies (KACS). In a session titled “Cyber diplomacy, warfare, and peace,” Song explained that cyberspace is the most difficult domain for nations to build trust within due to the anonymity upon which it is based. Countries conduct intelligence campaigns unilaterally, collecting intelligence even from their allies. At the same time, nations must drop their guard with one another to an extent to defend themselves from malicious non-state actors, such as terrorists and hackers, who act independently of national loyalties or allegiances. READ MORE
2. Korean security agency helped FBI to take down Hive ransomware gang
Seoul ― KACS 2023 Fall Conference ― With international cooperation having become a key factor in deterring cybercrimes, a South Korean security agency disclosed on Wednesday that they had contributed to taking down a ransomware gang by collaborating with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The Korea Internet & Security Agency (KISA) developed a recovery tool for Hive ransomware victims and provided the FBI with the tool last year. “Cyber incidents are inevitable, but the damages still can be minimized,” said Kwon Hyun-o, Head of the Digital Industry Division at KISA, during the Fall Conference hosted by the Korean Association of Cybersecurity Studies (KACS) on October 11.
The Hive ransomware group, once ranked the third most prolific cybercriminals in the world, was shut down by the FBI in January. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the ransomware gang targeted more than 1,500 victims in over 80 countries, including hospitals, schools, financial companies, and critical infrastructure. READ MORE
3. Experts urge caution on Russia and North Korea’s cooperation in cyber
Seoul ― KACS 2023 Fall Conference ― Russia and North Korea could seek to expand their ties in cyberspace as the two countries pledged to boost defense cooperation, according to a foreign policy professional on Wednesday.
Jang Se-ho, an expert on Russia with the Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS), urged South Korea to be aware of a possible partnership between the two authoritarian countries in the cyber domain during the fall conference hosted by the Korean Association of Cybersecurity Studies (KACS) on October 11. “There are much talk surrounding how far Russia and North Korea’s cooperation could go,” said Jang to the fellow participants. “It seems that several opportunities could be opening in the cyber sector as well.” READ MORE
4. Ex-Samsung senior researcher charged with leaking classified OLED technology
A former senior researcher of Samsung Electronics was charged with stealing the company’s technology on organic light-emitting diode (OLED) and then trying to export them to China, according to the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office on Tuesday.
The former Samsung employee, identified as 49-year-old man, worked in the company for more than 10 years, where he took charge of equipment development at the OLED Display Unit. Law enforcement stated that the suspect was arrested on October 6 for stealing the company’s trade secrets on OLED displays from 2018 to May of 2020. They estimated that the extorted technologies were worth at least 340 billion won ($252 million).
The former employee established two companies, one based in South Korea and the other in China. He subsequently used the companies as a conduit to transfer confidential information and technology from one nation to the other. The suspect obtained the company's secrets by enticing two of his colleagues, who worked as researchers at Samsung, to assist him. The two researchers were and their three accomplices were found guilty of leaking trade secrets in 2021 by the Supreme Court.
“The OLED display is one of the core technologies that support the country’s economy,” stated the prosecutors’ office. “We will take strict actions against criminal activities that involve theft of trade secrets.” By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
5. South Korean president says young ethical hackers are essential asset in cyber defense
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol met with young white hat hackers and stressed their role in defending the nation against cyber threats.
“Each and every one of you is an important strategic asset to the nation’s cyber defense,” said the President to the approximately 100 participants who gathered at the former presidential compound, Cheong Wa Dae, on October 12. “The capabilities you possess are the strength that keep the country’s digital system safe.” The speech was released to the public through the president’s official YouTube channel the same day. READ MORE
6. North Korea hacked South Korea’s electoral regulator, intelligence agency reveals
A North Korean state-sponsored hacking group allegedly took over a private email account belonging to one of the workers at South Korea’s electoral regulator and misused it to steal confidential information, according to South Korea’s intelligence agency on Tuesday.
The National Intelligence Service (NIS) disclosed in a press briefing that in April of 2021 the North Korean hacking group known as Kimsuky conducted a targeted attack against a senior official who worked in the National Election Commission’s regional office. The attackers disguised themselves as fellow employees to trick the victim and compromised their computers with malicious code. The NIS did not reveal the details of the data that may have been obtained by the bad actors but stated that multiple pieces of information, including confidential documents, were breached. READ MORE
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.