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Cyberattack on South Korea needs constructive world response

The cyberattack on South Korea's banks and TV stations Wednesday should force a global effort to develop legal rules against cyberwarfare.

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Customers of Shinhan Bank in Seoul, South Korea, leave the automated teller machines after a cyberattack paralyzed the bank's computers. Officials were investigating the simultaneous shutdown Wednesday of computer networks at major broadcasters and banks. While the cause wasn't clear, speculation centered on North Korea.

AP Photo

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If the world needed one more reason for global rules on cyberwarfare, it arrived Wednesday with a major cyberattack on South Korea.

The computer systems of three TV stations and a number of large financial institutions were shut down, some for as long as seven hours. The most visible disruption could be seen in the long lines of South Koreans standing at disabled ATMs.

The source of the attack was not immediately known, but North Korea remains the top suspect. It has been making more threats than usual in recent days, challenging a new government in Seoul and chafing at new international sanctions on its nuclear program.

In 2007, the Baltic state of Estonia suffered a similar widespread attack from inside Russia on the websites of its banks, government, and media. That attack prompted NATO to create an advisory manual on how states should respond to cyberwarfare. Now the attack in South Korea should force a similar global effort.

North Korea, which the South blames for previous shutdowns on some of its digital networks, may not go along with any new legal rules. It is a rogue state on many levels. But a global consensus could push its patron, China, to rein in its ally as well as possibly force China itself to accept new norms.

Just last week, the Obama administration fingered China for the first time as a source of cyberintrusion, mainly against businesses. In a speech, National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon called on Beijing to “take serious steps to investigate” reports of hacking coming fromwithin China.

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