South Korea's spy agency admits it explored buying technology to hack phone chatting service

Markets Associated Press

South Korean lawmakers say the country's spy agency has acknowledged exploring the purchase of technologies to intercept communication on the popular Kakao Talk smartphone chatting service. But the agency says it only intended to strengthen its monitoring of rival North Korean agents — not South Koreans.

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The office of lawmaker Shin Kyung-min said National Intelligence Service chief Lee Byoung Ho told legislators in a closed-door briefing that the agency bought hacking programs from an Italian company in 2012. Lee didn't indicate whether that included technology for hacking Kakao.

The NIS has a history of illegally tapping South Koreans' phone conversations.

Seoul blames Pyongyang for repeatedly attacking Internet networks and stealing information from computers.

The spy service didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.