A Washington-based organization that monitors human rights in North Korea says hackers attacked its website on the same day a cyber attack hit South Korean banks and broadcasters.
Greg Scarlatoiu, the executive director for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, reported that unidentified hackers shut down his website for several hours Wednesday, removing reports that highlighted abuses in the North.
“Instead of satellite photos of political prison camp number 25, I saw a message reading ‘Hitman 007 – Kingdom of Morocco.’ And as we went into more depth, we noticed that all of our publications had been taken out,” Scarlatoiu explained.
He says his group has not confirmed who is responsible for the attack. But Scarlatoiu says circumstantial evidence suggests a North Korea-related entity is to blame.
“First and foremost, what this organization has been doing for the past 12 years is exclusively dedicated to North Korean human rights. We don’t address the Middle East, we do not address any other areas of the world,” he says. “Secondly, this attack happened at the same time a massive cyber attack was conducted against targets inside South Korea.”
Wednesday, a concerted cyber attack paralyzed computer networks at several major South Korean broadcasters and banks. South Korean officials have traced the virus to a Chinese IP address. But Seoul is investigating whether North Korea may have routed the attack through China, as it is believed to have done in the past.
Scarlatoiu also points out that the attack on his organization occurred a day before the United Nations Human Rights Council was set to vote on the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry on North Korea’s human rights situation.
He says his organization was the first group to propose the establishment of the commission and has been working behind the scenes to push for its formation.
Earlier this month, a special U.N. investigator on North Korea, Marzuki Darusman, told the Geneva-based council that Pyongyang’s violations, including torture, enslavement, enforced disappearances and murder, could amount to crimes against humanity.
The council was expected to approve the creation of the commission – the first of its kind to look into North Korean human rights. North Korea denies it is committing human rights abuses, saying such claims are meant to sabotage its government.