NIS Purchase of Hacking Program Raises Suspicion

Article from News1:

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) bought a hacking program and alleged the program isn’t for illegal surveillance, leaves many questions unanswered

TheNISboughtahackingprograme2

Suspicions have arisen about the NIS’ purchase of a hacking program from a hacking team in Italy. On July 14, the NIS admitted to the purchase but alleged that they didn’t use it against the public.

On July 14, during the Information Committee’s meeting at the National Assembly, Lee Byungho, the head of the NIS, said, “If we have used the program for illegal surveillance, we will gladly accept any punishment.”

The NIS paid billions for “Remote Control System”(RCS) from “a hacking team” in 2012, which enables them to hack any operational systems and devices. They have revealed that they are using it to gather information about North Korea and foreign countries, to analyze technology, to establish a global strategy, and to conduct other related research.

They explained that they bought the program to protect Korea’s cyberspace, where there are new threats to national security.

However, suspicions still remain. According to some media reports, when the NIS bought “RCS,” they asked whether “call monitoring” was possible. Later while upgrading, they also made inquires to the hacking team about hacking “Kakaotalk.”

Furthermore, the NIS requested the hacking team provide them with an analysis of Samsung “Galaxy S3” after it was released. They also asked whether “Galaxy S6” could be hacked.

Korean mobile users prefer “Kakaotalk” to sending text messages, and the latest mobile phone isn’t being widely used in North Korea. These facts raise suspicions that the NIS is preparing to illegally investigate civilians like they previously did with Mirimteam. [Mirimteam was an illegal wiretapping team run by the National Security Planning Agency in 1990’s.]

However, the kinds of questions and answers discussed in the meeting have not yet been confirmed.

Though as members of the National Assembly are planning to visit the NIS to find out what the situation is with the program, it seems clear that the main discussion at the meeting revolved around the actual usage of the program.

In the meeting, they did not seem to have sufficiently discussed “Nanatech,” which mediated the purchase between the NIS and the hacking team.

Nanatech conducted business between the hacking team and “the army 5163 unit,” a fake name for the NIS. They also exchanged emails or had meetings with the hacking team, and took responsibility for technical inquiries. If Nanatech was able to understand the details that were brokered, they could guess the NIS’ intent behind the purchase.

However, Shin Kyungmin, an assistant administrator at New Politics Alliance for Democracy by National Assembly intelligence said, “There was no report about Nanatech. There is nothing to brief people about. We’re not sure whether we need a computer expert there when we visit. I don’t think there should be more people to check.”

The New Politics Alliance for Democracy is planning to organize a fact-finding committee at its level but it is unsure the extent to which the NIS will take part in the investigation.

The Saenuri Party has not expressed its position on this.

Comments from Naver:

kpj2****

If I tell my mom that I bought a PlayStation but it’s not for gaming, she would smash me.

bjy1****

It is like saying, “I drove after drinking, but it was not drunk driving.”

oora****

It is like saying, “I raped someone but it is not sexual assault.”

wook****

Did they forget what the NIS did at the president election? Is the NIS preparing for the next general election and the president election afterwards?

fldj****

Are you still going to vote for Saenuri Party? What a bunch of idiots.

rlar****

Hey, are North Koreans using Katalk? They are the NIS bugs!

hanw****

The real owner of Sewol Ferry is the NIS, I can assure you.

menm****

We are going back to the 1980’s.

lng3****

Whatever happens, people vote for Saenuri, the number 1 party. The 30% of Korean people comprised of Ilbe, middle and elderly people, hope for illegal surveillance and management.

armd****

If it was for their study, they must have reported it to the National Assembly. Otherwise, why did they try to cover up?

siri****

Go Ahn Chul-soo! Investigate this hacking issue!

lagh****

Even North Koreans are using Katalk?

ncra****

It is like saying, “I paid for sex and had sex, however it was for research and observation of a body. I didn’t have sex.”

rkng****

I am half person and half chicken, but I am not a chicken.

msg4****

Though I wrote a political comment, I didn’t intervene in the election. I did have sex but it wasn’t rape. I did take money but it wasn’t a bribe.

kud5****

A-hyu, keke. That is an obvious lie.

vael****

I insulted Park Geun-hye but not the president.

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  • commander

    Although the spy agency claims the lawful use of hacking tactics to gather intelligence on North Korea, it is interesting to see how politicians, both from govering and opposition parties, react to the allegation.

    In a local media interview, a ruling party lawmaker said that he used all instant messaging apps and other communication tools thinking of illegal surveillance as a fait accompli. He added that when he have important things to talk to associates and other fellow politicians, he usually resorts to a face-to-face gatherint in a bugging-proof place.

    He said that many fellow politicians are amply aware of a wiretapping possibility, exercising extra caution in communications on smarphones.

    The unlawful surveillance allegation has yet again sounded an alarm over security and privacy among South Koreans, hinting that NSA massive collection of American people’s personal data, revealed by former NSA analyst Snowden in a prescient warning of a perilous state intervention in civil rights and freedom, is not a story in a far away land. It could still act as a strong cautionary tale for South Korea.

  • Yeah, sure NIS. It’s like buying a pack of condoms and proclaiming “Oh I’m not going to use these for sex. I’m going to turn these into water balloons!”

  • News2Disqus

    I have hard time trusting and believing Korean News.

  • Moon

    Nothing new really… the list of countries and agencies that use “Hacking Team” (name of the company) services is quite long…….

    “Daum Kakao, the company that owns Kakaotalk, revealed last October that it had received 147 warrants from South Korean intelligence agencies to monitor Kakao Talk conversations, as well as nearly 5,000 warrants to seize the records of past conversations. In September 2014, Park Geun-hye met with officials from telecommunication companies, including Daum Kakao, saying,
    “Indiscriminate muckraking online that sows public discord has crossed the line, and public insecurity is getting out of control.” ”

    What more is there to say?

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/2950292/spys-suicide-adds-to-hacking-team-scandal-in-south-korea.html
    Seems pretty shady.

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