|Ministry of National Defense in central Seoul / Korea Times file|
By Jun Ji-hye
AhnLab and EST Security are moving to join the bid for the Ministry of National Defense's biannual project to construct anti-virus software for military internet servers, company officials and industry sources Friday.
Another security software provider, Hauri, which has offered its anti-virus software in the previous projects, has also expressed its intention to participate in the bid, but the bidding is likely to be a two-way race between AhnLab and EST Security, considering that the ministry has been in a court battle with Hauri over the 2016 cyberattacks on military internet servers.
"We are interested in the bidding for the defense ministry's vaccine project," an AhnLab official told The Korea Times.
An official from EST Security also said, "We have decided to join the ministry's project."
The defense ministry is currently looking for potential bidders and seeks to finalize the selection process by the end of the month at the latest, according to sources and media reports.
Security software providers here have previously seemed reluctant to participate in the ministry's anti-virus software construction project as it was considered to involve high risks but is not that profitable
The military internet servers here always run a risk of cyberattacks as the two Koreas are still technically at war.
Military prosecutors concluded in 2017 that the high-profile 2016 cyberattack ― in which a great deal of military data was leaked ― was the work of North Korean agents based in China. Leaked data included some confidential information on the South Korea-U.S. joint operational plan.
As Hauri was the sole bidder in 2017, the ministry had to sign a contract with the firm again despite the cyberattack.
But the ongoing project that will cover two years from next year appears to have attracted more security software providers as the ministry increased its budget allocated to the project to about 10 billion won ($8.6 million) from the previous 4.1 billion won.
The ministry divided the project into two sections ― the purchase of anti-virus vaccines, for which 4 billion won will be used, and the system integration, for which 6 billion won has been allocated.
Security software providers are aiming to win a contract to sell their anti-virus vaccines.
"Unlike in the past, this year's project seems to be worth a try in terms of profitability. This would be why large companies such as AhnLab and EST Security are participating," an official from a security software provider said, asking not to be named.
The ministry plans to purchase licenses of anti-virus vaccines through the Public Procurement Service after evaluating candidates.