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The North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur has bunkered down amid an unusually vitriolic diplomat spat.   © Reuters
International relations

Malaysia braces for possible North Korean cyberattacks

Latest fallout from diplomatic row after assassination of Kim Jong Nam

CK TAN, Nikkei staff writer | North Korea

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysia has beefed up security on all fronts including cyberspace after diplomatic relations with North Korea deteriorated in the aftermath of the assassination last month of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of leader Kim Jong Un.

In the past, North Korea has been suspected of hacking websites in Japan and South Korea. South Korean authorities believe hackers from the North were behind attacks last August on computer servers linked to the military, according to Yonhap news agency in December.

CIMB Group Holdings, one of Malaysia's biggest banks, issued an internal notice on Thursday putting staff on alert.

"In view of the increasing political tension with North Korea, there could be cyberattacks against Malaysian websites and IT infrastructure," CIMB said.

CIMB reiterated seven "best practices to remain secure" including not responding to dubious emails or opening unidentified attachments. The bank has nearly 39,000 staff across 16 markets globally, with key markets in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

In recent days, Malaysia has stepped up security at all points of departure after imposing a travel ban on an estimated 1,000 North Koreans in the country.

"We have always been vigilant in keeping our nation safe under whatever situation, including this issue," a police spokesperson told the Nikkei Asian Review.

Kuala Lumpur had already withdrawn visa-free travel privileges for North Koreans after the secretive communist regime challenged Malaysia's investigation into Kim's killing. Kang Chol, the North Korean ambassador, was given 48 hours to leave on Saturday after accusing Malaysia of conspiring with South Korea in the deadly incident.

North Korea responded by barring 11 Malaysians connected to the embassy in Pyongyang from leaving. Two of them work for the United Nations World Food Program, and were allowed to travel to Beijing on Thursday in the absence of a direct connection between Malaysia and North Korea.

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