South Korean Shipbuilder DSME Confirms New Possible Cyber Attack

cyvber attack on defense contractor shipbuilder Daewoo DSME
Daewoo completed South Korea's first domestically-built ballistic submarine in 2021 (RoKN photo)

Published Nov 1, 2021 4:40 PM by The Maritime Executive

South Korean shipbuilder and defense contractor Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) confirmed yesterday that a new investigation is underway regarding a possible breach of the company’s computer systems. While admitting that it was the second possible hack into its systems this year and the third in 12 months, DSME stressed that no defense information had been compromised in the latest cyber attack. 

“We are doing our best to find out what happened and are cooperating with the investigation,” DSME said in a written statement released to the Korean media.

The shipbuilder said it had become aware of hacking attempts on its systems and reported the situation to the police on October 25 for investigation. In recent days there had been numerous rumors of a possible security breach on an unnamed company before a leak appeared in the media over the weekend quoting an unnamed government source who identified DSME as the target.

In June, DSME also requested police assistance to investigate another possible cyber attack on its systems. At the time, media speculation centered on North Korea looking for information related to DSME’s research into nuclear-powered submarines. DSME in August completed the commissioning and delivery of South Korea’s first domestically-built submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles. The shipbuilder is a key contributor to South Korea’s defense systems and navy, including the effort to design and build the country’s first nuclear-powered submarine.

As with the attack in June, authorities declined to provide additional details on last week’s incident. A joint investigation between the national security and defense organizations was launched.

“We have implemented necessary corrective measures and will come up with further preventive measures as soon as possible when the cause of the incident is revealed,” DMSE said. “We are very sorry for causing concern and promise to make every necessary effort to prevent similar situations from happening again.”

The current cyber attack is believed to be the third in the past year specifically aimed at DSME’s systems. It is unclear if any of these efforts were successful in reaching sensitive information. However, in 2017, it was reported that the prior year hackers thought to be from North Korea got hold of 40,000 documents and 60 naval designs. It was believed that they were after information related to the country’s submarine programs but also beached sensitive data on Aegis Class destroyers.