North Korea, hack

North Korean hackers have been implicated as the source of several high profile attacks recently. Source: Shutterstock

Malaysian companies on guard for potential North Korean cyberattacks

MALAYSIAN corporations are bracing for possible cyberattacks by North Korea due to the escalating diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

Security measures on all fronts have been shored up against potential reprisals by North Korea since the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother, led to the souring of relations with Malaysia.

The Asian Nikkei Review reported an internal memo has been circulated at CIMB, a major Malaysian bank, advising its staff to maintain seven “best practices to remain secure”.

Malaysia’s increasingly strained relationship with Kim’s government, it said, could lead to “cyberattacks on Malaysian websites and IT infrastructure”.

Some of the measures recommended are being wary of suspicious emails and taking extra precautions before opening unidentified attachments.

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CIMB, which has about 39,000 staff, is present in 16 global markets, with deep links to the Asean region.

The bank’s fears may not be unfounded, as North Korea has a reputation for launching cyberattacks in response to diplomatic tiffs.

North Korea has been suspected of launching cyber attacks on various companies in Japan and South Korea, as well as a series of attacks against institutions in Poland, the UK and Ecuador.

In 2014, the FBI accused the North Koreans of being responsible for the infamous Sony Pictures hack, which resulted in the destruction of various information systems and the mass theft of internal communications and commercial data.

Cyber security provider Symantec said a spate of recent bank heists in Bangladesh, the Philippines and Vietnam were conducted by a North Korean group called “Lazarus”.

The hacks in Europe and the Asian banks specifically targeted the institutions’ SWIFT messaging system, widely considered as the most secure messaging system for ordering financial transactions.

The deterioration of the diplomatic relations has resulted in Malaysia taking extra safety measures, as told by Malaysian police to Nikkei: “We have always been vigilant in keeping our nation safe under any situation, including this one.”

SEE ALSO: SWIFT messaging system bans North Korean banks blacklisted by UN

Visa-free travel from North Korea has been rescinded while a travel ban has been put into place to prevent North Koreans from leaving the country.

An estimated 1,000 North Koreans currently live in Malaysia.

Jong Nam was murdered at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2, where he was waiting to board a flight to Macau.

Two women smeared him with what was alleged to be VX nerve agent, a chemical deemed to be a weapon of mass destruction by UN.

The suspects, Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong and Indonesian Siti Aisyah, have been charged with his murder.