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Row over Korean election DDoS attack heats up

Ruling party staffer accused of disrupting Seoul mayoral by-election

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A political scandal is brewing in Korea over alleged denial of service attacks against the National Election Commission (NEC) website.

Police have arrested the 27-year-old personal assistant of ruling Grand National Party politician Choi Gu-sik over the alleged cyber-assault, which disrupted a Seoul mayoral by-election back in October.

However, security experts said that they doubt the suspect, identified only by his surname "Gong", had the technical expertise or resources needed to pull off the sophisticated attack. Rather than knocking the NEC website offline, the attack made a portion of the website – offering information on voting booth locations – inaccessible.

Despite this issue resembling a technical fault rather than a DDoS attack, the incident is being treated as a criminal attack by the police, who have arrested Gong and charged him along with three others.

Police said that the "attack", which lasted for more than two hours, was launched using a total of 10 wireless internet connections, including five T-Login and five WiBro connections. Police speculated that this was either a way of making it harder to thwart the attack or an attempt to complicate police efforts to investigate the assault. A police official told Korean daily newspaper The HankYoreh: “This went beyond simply using zombie PCs and wireless internet to launder IP addresses. It was a sophisticated attack.”

Opposition groups argue that the early morning timing of the attack was carefully designed to disrupt the voting of young commuters, who are more likely to vote for opposition (liberal) candidates. They want to force a parliamentary audit or special prosecutor’s investigation if the police investigation fails to get to the bottom of the attack.

Gong continues to protest his innocence, a factor that has led opposition politicians to speculate that he is covering up for higher-ranking officials who ordered the attack.

Democratic Party politician Baek Won-woo told The HankYoreh: “We need to determine quickly and precisely whether there was someone up the line who ordered the attack, and whether there was compensation.” ®

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