SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has been hacking into South Korean government computer networks with greater frequency to gather information on next week's Group of 20 summit in Seoul, a South Korean newspaper reported Thursday.
North Korea has a track record of provocations when world attention is focused on the rival South, and Seoul is bracing for any possible North Korean moves to sabotage the meeting of world leaders.
North Korean hackers based in China collected unspecified minor information about the summit from South Korean government networks, the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported citing an unidentified official at the presidential Blue House.
The Blue House and the National Intelligence Service – Seoul's main spy agency – said they couldn't immediately confirm the report.
It's widely believed that North Korea runs a cyber warfare unit aimed at hacking into South Korean and U.S. networks to collect confidential information and disrupt service. Last week, South Korea's spy chief told lawmakers that North Korea has about 1,000 hackers.
The report came three days after South Korea strengthened cybersecurity measures for main government and civilian Web sites to cope with possible cyberattacks by hackers in North Korea and other countries.
Government and private experts are trying to detect signs of attacks such as the one last year that disabled key Web sites in the U.S. and South Korea by launching a massive number of access attempts. Seoul officials have said they believed that cyberattack was conducted by North Korea, but cybersecurity experts say that U.S. officials have largely ruled out North Korea as the origin.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Wednesday that he does not believe Pyongyang would strike South Korea but that Seoul was ready for anything.
"The South Korean government is making thorough preparations against (any possible attacks) by North Korea and worldwide terrorist organizations," Lee told reporters during a televised news conference.
In 1987, a year before the Seoul Olympics, North Korean agents planted a bomb on a South Korean plane, killing all 115 people on board. In 2002, when South Korea jointly hosted soccer's World Cup along with Japan, a North Korean naval boat sank a South Korean patrol vessel near the sea border.
Tension between the rivals spiked again last week when soldiers from each side briefly exchanged gunfire along their heavily armed border. There was more gunfire Wednesday, when the South Korean navy fired warning shots to chase away a North Korean fishing boat that crossed their sea border.
The two Koreas are still technically at war because their conflict in the 1950s ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. The U.S. stations 28,500 troops in South Korea.
Associated Press writer Kwang-tae Kim contributed to this report.