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Cyber Attack Hits US-based North Korea Rights Group

WASHINGTON - A US-based group monitoring human rights in North Korea said Wednesday it was hit by a cyber attack that disabled its website for several hours.

The incident at the Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea occurred at the same time as a major attack targeting South Korean TV broadcasters and banks.

Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the group, said he learned early Wednesday about the attack, which changed the welcome page to identify the site as "Hitman 007 -- Kingdom of Morocco."

"Our website had indeed been hacked, and a lot of our publications had been taken out. Fortunately we were able to work with the hosting company from the backup to fully restore the website."

Scarlatoiu said he had no information on the origin of the attack but that "all circumstantial evidence" points to North Korea.

"We deal 100 percent with North Korea human rights," he told AFP. "We don't deal with the Middle East, we don't deal with other regions."

Additionally, he said the attack occurred at the same time as entities in South Korea were hit. He noted that the attackers removed reports highlighting rights abuses in the North, including the increase in population of a political prison camp.

In Seoul Wednesday, the state-run Korea Internet Security Agency said computer networks at three TV broadcasters -- KBS, MBC and YTN -- as well as the Shinhan and Nonghyup banks had been "partially or entirely crippled."

LG Uplus, an Internet service provider, also reported a network crash.

There was no immediate confirmation of who or what was behind the attacks but the main finger of suspicion is likely to point at Pyongyang.

The incidents came days after North Korea accused South Korea and the United States of being behind a "persistent and intensive" hacking assault that took a number of its official websites offline for nearly two days.

The North was believed to be behind two major cyber attacks, in 2009 and 2011, that targeted South Korean government agencies and financial institutions, causing their networks to crash.

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