Amid the ongoing concerns surrounding Chinese-manufactured port cranes being used for espionage, South Korea’s Meteorological Agency has made a startling discovery. They found malicious code in meteorological equipment imported from China. The malicious code was discovered in June this year and was disclosed by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) during a cybersecurity forum in July. The NIS, along with other organizations, has launched an extensive investigation into Chinese-manufactured devices, including CCTV systems. There are concerns that these devices may have backdoors, which could allow Chinese cyber organizations to access and manipulate real-time weather data in South Korea.
In response to U.S. concerns, the South Korean government initiated an investigation into Chinese-manufactured port cranes in March. Measures are being formulated based on the investigation findings, and actions will be taken against existing Chinese cranes within the year. Some South Korean port companies have already decided to stop importing cranes from China and opt for domestically produced alternatives. Over half of the large cranes in South Korean ports are from China, reaching 75 percent at Pyeongtaek Port, near the U.S. Forces Korea headquarters. A bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to prohibit the use of Chinese cranes in American ports and require safety reviews of existing installations.
The focus is on Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. (ZPMC), which dominates over 70 percent of the global market. Concerns about espionage have also emerged in the U.S., as large cranes manufactured in China and used in American ports, including those utilized by the U.S. military, could potentially compromise U.S. military operations. Almost 80 percent of cranes in U.S. ports are manufactured by Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries.
South Korea has been taking steps to enhance its cybersecurity. In April, they signed the “Strategic Cybersecurity Cooperation Framework” with the United States, expanding their cooperation in the cyber domain. They have also been evaluating IT products subject to international sanctions, including those from China and Russia. China has consistently accounted for about 40 percent of South Korea’s telecommunications equipment imports. The proposed amendment to the Information and Communication Network Law aims to criminalize the establishment or dissemination of backdoors in information and communication networks in South Korea.