South Korea hit by cyber attack

Two South Korean banks and three television broadcasters have come under a cyber attack. (File photo)

Three South Korean broadcasters and two banks have come under a cyber attack that paralyzed computer networks and ATMs across the country.

Computer networks at KBS, MBC and YTN television broadcasters and the Shinhan and Nonghyup banks were “partially or entirely crippled” during a simultaneous cyber attack at 2:00 p.m. local time on Wednesday, said the Korea Internet Security Agency.

Screens turned blank as skulls started popping up on the monitors of some computers, indicating that hackers planted a malicious code, the agency added.

Some computers came back online hours later, only after having caused major disruptions in banking and public services across the nation whose citizens rely on a largely cashless system.

Authorities said the origin of the attack was not clear but speculated that North Korea was likely to blame.

Pyongyang recently accused the United States and South Korea of carrying out cyber attacks against North Korean Internet servers on a daily basis.

Tension has gripped relations between North Korea and South Korea along with its allies.

On March 11, South Korea and the United States launched a week-long annual joint military exercise near the Korean Peninsula despite warnings from North Korea, which condemned the maneuvers as a launch pad for a “nuclear war.” Pyongyang cut off its communication hotline with Seoul as the drills kicked off.