Opposition Party Files Suit Over Hacking Program Scandal

D-Bo , July 23, 2015, 9:36 a.m.

The main opposition party Thursday filed a complaint with the prosecution against a local company over hacking programs in the latest political offensive against South Korea's top spy agency. Nanatech Ltd. is accused of purchasing the hacking software programs from an Italian hacking firm in 2012 on behalf of the National Intelligence Service.

The software program uses Remote Control System technology, which allows hackers to manipulate and track smartphones and computers by installing spyware. Nanatech Ltd. is accused of violating the Communication Privacy Protection Act as it did not obtain government approval before it bought the spyware. The complaint is also filed against former NIS chief Won Sei-hoon and some unidentified NIS officials, saying that the spy agency violated the Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Data Protection by spreading the spyware.

Won, who headed the spy agency from 2009 to 2013, is currently serving a three-year jail sentence for a separate case. "We will mobilize all means available," said Ahn Cheol-soo, a lawmaker of the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy. The founder of South Korea's largest antivirus software firm AhnLab is heading the opposition's task force set up to find the truth behind the hacking software programs.

A key dispute is whether the spy agency has carried out surveillance of ordinary South Koreans, a charge denied by the spy agency. The NIS has said it bought the programs that can be used to hack into up to 20 mobile phones simultaneously and said the programs are designed to work through the Italian company. The NIS has also said that it used most of the programs to strengthen cyber warfare capabilities against North Korea.

South Korea was hit by a series of cyber attacks in recent years that were blamed on North Korea, though the North has denied any involvement. The ruling Saenuri Party denounced Ahn for filing the complaint, calling him "irresponsible." Rhee In-je, a senior lawmaker of the ruling party, has said members of the parliamentary intelligence committee can question the NIS chief in a closed-door session over the hacking programs, but no details of his testimony should be leaked, noting the spy agency's operations are classified. Ahn's request "is like declaring a criminal act that he will publicly leak classified information," Ha Tae-keung, a ruling party lawmaker, said Wednesday.

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