South Korea accuses North of hacking official emails

August 3, 2016

(Photo: Shutterstock)

According to prosecutors in Seoul, a significant number of South Korean government officials had their email accounts hacked by North Korea last year.

An article in Asahi Shimbun reports that investigations into the cyber-attack found that between January and June 2015, a “North Korean operated group” stole the email passwords of 56 people. This included officials in South Korea’s Defence, Foreign and Unification ministries. 

The story was first reported by Yonhap news agency.

In order to obtain email passwords, Yonhap informs us that in January North Korean hackers used a free web-hosting server to create 27 phishing sites, which pretended to be portal sites run by the South Korean Foreign Ministry, universities or companies related to defence, for example.

As yet it is unknown whether any confidential information was leaked, but an investigation is underway.

This is by no means the first time that Pyongyang has been accused of involvement in cyber-attacks. 

Just a few days previously South Korean police accused the regime of stealing personal data of over 10 million customers of South Korea’s online shopping mall Interpark, Asahi Shimbun reported.

Interpark only became aware that their customer data bank had been hacked on the 11th July, when the company was blackmailed to the sum of 3 billion won ($2.6 million or €2.3 million) in return for not publicising this private information. 

The National Police Agency of South Korea asserts that North Korea’s main spy agency, The Reconnaissance General Bureau, is behind the latest attack. They said that the same codes and internet protocol addresses had previously been used in cyber-attacks carried out by Pyongyang.

According to the Japan Times, Seoul believes that military institutions, banks, various state agencies, TV broadcasters, media websites and a nuclear power plant have also been targeted by North Korean hackers in recent years. 

The South Korean Police Agency believes that the North Korean regime is seeking means of obtaining foreign currency. 

According to the South’s spy agency, Pyongyang has an army of over 1,000 hackers intent on targeting Seoul’s top institutions and officials.

Meanwhile accusations of North Korean involvement in cyber-attacks have also come from beyond the Korean Peninsula

Last year, for example, Pyongyang was accused by the FBI of being behind a major cyber-attack on Sony Pictures. This attack happened to occur as the company was preparing to release The Interview, a comedy film featuring a plot to kill the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

In November of last year, the Sony system was hacked and embarrassing emails and personal information subsequently published. Later, a group calling themselves “Guardians of Peace” threatened cinemas showing the film with attacks in the vein of 9/11. 

According to BBC News, while the North Korean leadership praised the cyber-attack calling it a “righteous deed,” they also called claims of their involvement absurd and denied any responsibility.

Even before this incident, the US government had sanctions in place over North Korea’s nuclear programme. BBC News reported that in response to the attack on Sony, Washington added further sanctions.

This is thought to be the first time the US has punished another country for a cyber-attack on a US company. 

This year, meanwhile, there has been increased tension in the region following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test carried out in January and the series of ballistic missile tests which followed. 

These events provoked an escalation of sanctions imposed by the United Nations, as well as individually by countries including the United States, South Korea and Japan

Sources include: Asahi ShimbunBBC News and Japan Times


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Pokémon a go go

July 19, 2016

Since the launch of Pokémon GO on the 6th July, Japan’s Nintendo Co has seen a 14% jump in share value, with its market capitalisation rocketing to 4.5 trillion yen ($42.5 billion, €38 billion) by Tuesday, Reuters has reported.

Much to the frustration of fans around the world, the release of this smartphone game was staggered, initially being limited to just the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

Now, however, Pokémon GO is available to download on iPhones and Android phones in a total of 35, mostly European, countries, and has become a worldwide smash hit.

According to data collected by app analytics firm SimilarWeb, on the 7th July, one day after it’s official release in the United States, the game had already been installed onto more US Android phones than Tinder.

Moreover, the figures for app usage have also been astonishing. SimilarWeb reported on the 10th July that over 60 percent of those who downloaded the Android app in the US were daily users, which means roughly 3 percent of the entire US population were playing Pokémon GO on a daily basis.

The firm also reported that daily usage among players averaged 43 minutes 23 seconds, which puts its daily user activity higher than those of Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat or Messenger.

Meanwhile BBC News reported that in its initial week, Pokémon Go was more heavily tweeted than Brexit in the first week of the referendum (15.3 million tweets in comparison to 11.7) and twice as popular as the Euro 2016 football championships in its first week.

Even on the day of the UK referendum vote, there were almost as many Google searches for the game as there were for Brexit, and after it’s release, searches for the game even overtook those for that internet staple, pornography, reported the BBC.

For Nintendo, the runaway success of this game has provoked immense buying of their shares, on a scale that has surprised many.

Takashi Oba, senior strategist at Okasan Securities, said, “I’ve never seen the trend of such a big company’s shares changing so quickly in such a short period of time.” 

In fact, on Tuesday, trading in shares in Nintendo accounted for almost a quarter of all trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s main board, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile the turnover of Nintendo shares reached 703.6 billion yen ($6.6 billion, €5.9 billion) by the end of Tuesday, thereby surpassing the 476 billion yen ($4.5 billion, €4 billion) record it set on Friday for trading turnover in individual shares.

Until now Nintendo has not been a contender in the virtual reality and augmented reality market, yet there has been speculation that the company may seek to capitalise on the success of Pokémon GO, for example with other popular characters such as Super Mario and Zelda following down the same path.

Sources include: Reuters, BBC News, SimilarWeb


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NTT Introduces SIM Cards For Visitors To Japan

June 27, 2014

Good news for international travellers, no longer will you have to abandon your mobile phone when you enter Japan. Due to Japan having its own unique 3G mobile phone technology foreign visitors usually find their GSM phones are useless here and are faced with the option of going without mobile phone and internet access or the costly options of renting a phone for the duration of their trip or buying one outright.

However, NTT, Japan’s national telecom company, has announced an affordable solution. On June 25  NTT introduced a mobile phone SIM card for foreign visitors to Japan that will provide up to 100 megabytes of daily data traffic over a two-week period.

By inserting the card into their smartphones, users can gain access to the Internet through NTT Docomo Inc.’s mobile phone communication network, send up to 10,000 text messages and watch YouTube videos for about 45 minutes a day.

The card also enables access to public wireless networks provided by NTT group companies.

Japan Communications Inc. and So-net Corp. earlier developed and provided SIM cards for foreign visitors for the expected increase in tourists ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

NTT Communications said its SIM card sells for 3,500 yen ($34), tax excluded, offering a cheaper price than those of its predecessors.

Before departure from a foreign location, users may purchase their SIM card at Upon arrival in Japan, the card may be picked up at one of several airport post offices (Narita, Haneda, Kansai, Chubu Centrair, New-Chitose, Fukuoka, Kagoshima or Naha) or certain hotels.

For those already in Japan, the prepaid SIM card may be purchased from a vending machine at Narita Excel Hotel Tokyu ( or at a XCom Global, Inc. ( counter at Narita, Haneda, Kansai or Chubu Centrair airport.

Sales in Hong Kong and Taiwan are planned from this summer. Additional purchase points, including vending machines, travel agents and hotels, are expected to be added.

As a further convenience, including unrestricted data, travelers are encouraged to apply for the Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi service (, which provides access to about 18,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots around Japan, including at major airports, stations and shops. Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi is provided by NTT-BP, an NTT Group company.

Telephone inquiries about the SIM card can be made in English, Chinese and Korean. Instructions that come with the card are written in Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese and Thai.

Sources: The Asahi Newspaper,

TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds.

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Air-powered Lego car driven through suburban Melbourne

January 6, 2014

What do you get if you cross a Romanian technologist, an Australian entrepreneur, 40 investors and 500,000 plastic bricks? A real car made entirely of Lego of course! 

Running on 4 air-powered Lego engines, 256 Lego pistons, only the wheels and a couple of gauges are not constructed from Lego. The car, dubbed the Super Awesome Micro project, is the brain-child of Romanian “teenager” Raul Oaida and Australian technology enthusiast Steve Sammartino, who met on the internet and came up with the idea. Knowing they lacked the necessary funds to complete the project, Sammartino sent out the following tweet. “Anyone interested in investing $500 – $1,000 in a project which is awesome and a world first tweet me. Need about 20 participants.” 40 Australians willingly contributed cash to the project (which ended up costing $60,000 in Lego bricks alone!)

The pair built the car in Romania over 18 months and shipped it to Australia. After reassembling some of the major components once there, the pair drove it, at up to 20km/hr through the streets of suburban Melbourne – all the while a little anxious about a potential Lego explosion. None came, however, and the car has since attracted a lot of attention from Lego-lovers the world over.

“This can’t have been an easy thing to make, let alone to make move. The engine in particular must have required some innovative thinking,” said Matt Saunders, deputy road test editor of Autocar magazine.

This invention is perhaps the technological equivalent of art for art’s sake: not very useful but a sheer wonder to behold!

Why not have a look at the car in action?

Sources Include: BBC News; YouTube


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Facebook to buy voice translation software firm

August 16, 2013

Social media giants Facebook and voice technology specialist firm Mobile Technologies have agreed upon a contract, by which Facebook will acquire and subsume Mobile Technologies in the near future.

No financial details of the contract have been released as yet, although both companies have released statements commenting on the transaction. Tom Stocky, Product Management Director for Facebook wrote today online that he was “excited to announce that we’ve agreed to acquire Mobile Technologies, a company with an amazing team that’s behind some of the world’s leading speech recognition and machine translation technologyVoice technology has become an increasingly important way for people to navigate mobile devices and the web, and this technology will help us evolve our products to match that evolution.”

Mobile Technologies, which is a significantly smaller company than Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, a social media network with over one billion users, released their own, shorter statement, in which they declared that they were “excited” about the deal, and that “once the deal has closed many of us will be joining the company at their headquarters in Menlo Park, California.”

Mobile Technologies is a Pittsburgh, US-based company, and the creators of Jibbigo, a mobile phone application launched in 2009 which allows the user to access automatic audio or written translations of their text or voice recordings in over 25 languages.

Facebook currently uses Bing, a Microsoft program, for the translation of the site’s comments and newsfeed posts. With the acquisition of Mobile Technologies, Facebook will have access to an in-house translation service, with which it hopes to significantly improve the audio and text translation features of the social networking site, making interlingual communication a more integral feature of the site.

Sources include Japan Today, The Telegraph


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$45 million international cyber theft rocks banking world

May 10, 2013

A global cyber crime syndicate’s recent bank heist has demonstrated how serious the threat of cyber crime is to banks around the world. It also shows how increasingly international and sophisticated criminal gangs have become, particularly those using the Internet.

U.S. prosecutors reported on Thursday that a global cyber crime ring stole $45 million from two Middle Eastern banks by hacking into credit card processing firms and withdrawing money from ATM’s in 27 countries.

Cyber experts said they believe the operation likely required the cooperation of several hundred people, at least several of whom were highly skilled hackers capable of devising ways to penetrate well-protected financial systems.

The group may have targeted Middle Eastern banks because they tend to allow customers to put much larger sums on cards and do not monitor them as closely as banks in other regions, said Shane Shook, global vice president of consulting for the security firm Cylance Inc.

“It’s a target-rich environment in terms of soft electronic security,” said Shook, an Arabic speaker who has spent more than a decade investigating cyber crimes.

The U.S. Justice Department accused eight men of allegedly forming the New York-based cell of the organization, and said seven of them have been arrested. The eighth, allegedly a leader of the cell, was reported to have been murdered in the Dominican Republic on April 27.

The ringleaders are believed to be outside the United States but prosecutors declined to give details, citing the ongoing investigation. What’s clear is the sheer scope and speed of the crimes: in one of the attacks, in just over 10 hours, $40 million was raided from ATM‘s in 24 countries involving 36,000 transactions.

“In the place of guns and masks, this cyber crime organization used laptops and the Internet,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch said at a news conference. “Moving as swiftly as data over the Internet, the organization worked its way from the computer systems of international corporations to the streets of New York City.”

Prosecutors highlighted the “surgical precision” of these hackers, the global nature of their organization, and the speed and coordination with which they executed operations in 27 countries.

The gang broke into the computers of two credit card processors, one in India in December 2012 and the other in the United States this February.

The hackers increased the available balance and withdrawal limits on prepaid MasterCard debit cards issued by Bank of Muscat of Oman, and National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah PSC (RAKBANK) of the United Arab Emirates, according to the complaint. They then distributed counterfeit debit cards to “cashers” around the world, enabling them to siphon millions of dollars from ATMs in a matter of hours.

In New York, for example, members of the cell fanned out into the city on the afternoon of February 19, armed with cards bearing a single Bank of Muscat account number. Ten hours later, they had completed 2,904 withdrawals for $2.4 million in all, the final transaction coming around 1:26 a.m., prosecutors said.

Casher crews in other countries were busy doing the same, pulling some $40 million from Bank of Muscat to add to the $5 million they stole from RAKBANK in December, according to the indictment. In total, cashers made some 40,500 withdrawals in 27 countries during the two coordinated incidents.

It is not clear if banks can seek to recover losses from card processors, legal experts said. Contracts usually have specific language governing the security protocols that must be in place, said Frederick Rivera, an attorney with Perkins Cole who specializes in financial services litigation.

Lynch said the New York gang kept roughly 20 percent of their takes, and sent the rest to the organizers. Authorities said they seized hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and bank accounts, as well as two Rolex watches and a Mercedes SUV, from the defendants.

Investigators said that they found an email exchange with an account associated with a criminal money laundering operation in St. Petersburg, Russia, describing wire transfers.

An investigation is ongoing to see if other cells are operating in the country, Lynch said, adding that U.S. law enforcement had worked with counterparts in Japan, Canada, Germany, Romania, the United Arab Emirates, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Belgium, France, United Kingdom, Latvia, Estonia, Thailand, and Malaysia to uncover the ring.

Sourced from Reuters


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Chinese ‘e-tail’ revolution

May 9, 2013

Online shopping, almost nonexistent in China as recently as five years ago, has emerged as a major sales channel for retailers, with combined sales of about 1.3 trillion renminbi, or $211 billion, last year, said Carrie Yu, China and Asia Pacific retail and consumer expert at PwC in Hong Kong.

The findings, which are based on a survey of more than 11,000 online shoppers in 11 countries, underline the speed at which China has emerged as one of the world’s most wired retail markets.

In China, 58 percent of respondents in the PwC report said they shopped online at least once a week, for example. That percentage was by far the highest of any of the countries covered in the PwC survey. By comparison, only 42 percent of U.S. respondents, 41 percent of those in Britain, and 29 percent of German respondents said they shopped online at least once a week. The percentage was lowest in France, where only 13 percent said they made online purchases once or more a week.

China now has the world’s largest online population with over 130 million domestic broadband users. Chinese consumers shop online, using gadgets like smartphones and tablets, more frequently than their counterparts elsewhere. One possible reason for the boom in online purchases is that the infrastructure outside the major cities is still developing and access to traditional retail shopping is still limited for many Chinese consumers. Online shopping allows consumers access to all the goods they cannot purchase locally.

“Things are happening very fast here,” Ms. Yu said. “E-tailing has become a major focus for C.E.O.’s across all segments of retailing, whether it’s electrical goods, luxury goods or even groceries.”

The explosive growth of electronic shopping in China has led to the country’s emergence as one of the world’s busiest online shopping markets, both in terms of overall sales volumes and in terms of the frequency with which consumers shop online, Ms. Yu said.

Chinese consumers are also significantly more likely than their counterparts in other parts of the world to use smartphones or tablets, rather than PCs, to make online purchases. More than one third of Chinese online shoppers used such devices, about double the global average, the PwC report found.

The quest for lower prices has been a main driver of online shopping around the world in recent years, especially in the half-decade since the global financial crisis, when consumers in many parts of the world became more eager to save money, Ms. Yu said.

In China, however, the growth of online shopping has been given several extra kicks.The economy has continued to grow rapidly; wages have risen; and the country’s online population has ballooned along with better communications networks and the easy availability of online devices.

“In a nation where many other sectors are rapidly expanding, e-tailing stands out for its astonishing growth,” McKinsey wrote in a report published in March.

According to McKinsey, China was the world’s second-largest e-tailing market, after the United States, in 2011, with sales totaling $120 billion — well above the $107 billion in Japan, and more than twice those recorded in Britain, for example. By 2012, China came “very close to equaling the United States for the top spot” in terms of e-tailing volumes, McKinsey added.

With China‘s broadband penetration still at only 30%, and Chinese online sales projected to reach an annual $650 billion dollars by 2020, the future of e-tailing in China looks rosy for the considerable future.

Sources include: The New York Times, The McKinsey Global Institute


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