While the world is concerned about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, its leaders are quietly, secretly involved in cyber terror attacks. The country’s leader, Kim Jong-il, relayed to his military several years ago that success in a modern war in dependent upon electronic warfare, reports Fox News. Since that time, he has concentrated his focus on cyber warfare and has already perpetrated several cyber terrorist incidents.
South Korean intelligence estimates that during the past year, North Korea has been involved in numerous cyber attacks against their nation, as many as 15,000 per day. As the attacks continue, their ability to cause harm has increased. The initial electronic attacks, such as the July 4 incident in 1999, targeting South Korea and US government sites were lacking in sophistication. Since then North Korea’s cyber warfare skill has developed considerably, displaying greater intensity and ambitiousness every year. Evidence of this increasing expertise can be seen in the ability to target a South Korean military officer’s computer, as well as steal contingency plans of the US response to problems.
The most recent evidence of the skill North Korea has acquired in this area was demonstrated by an April 12 attack on South Korea’s Nonghyup Bank, which shut down its computer system. During the incident, 30 million account holders were not able to access their money for a week. South Korean prosecutors traced the attack to a computer operated by the North Korean Reconnaissance General Bureau. The hackers perpetrated the attack by gaining remote access to a computer of an employee of the National Agriculture Cooperative Federation. The incident was a new variety of electronic terrorism that targeted a private company in an attempt to create havoc in South Korea’s financial system.
North Korea’s cyber capabilities and terror intentions are alarming. According to Strategy Page, the country’s hackers are getting ready to launch a major attack on South Korea’s internet infrastructure, in addition to systems such as utilities that are not on the internet. Even more troubling than that, is that South Korea’s intelligence services believe that North Korea is able to paralyze the US Pacific Command and perpetrate widespread damage to defense networks in the United States. Another indication of possible cyber meddling by North Korea in our country is that computers from that country are reportedly among the most frequent visitors to US military websites.
Due to the secrecy involved, analysts differ on how far North Korea’s cyber attack capabilities have developed. But the recent incidents and information gained from defectors give cause for grave concern. Defectors have stated that the North Korean military have accumulated as many as 30,000 cyber warfare experts, and that they are the central part of the military program. The rogue nation recruits the brightest students from the universities and places them into special schools where they are instructed in hacking and electronic warfare aimed at South Korea. According to a defector, North Korea trains about 100 hackers a year in advanced electronic espionage. Washington and Seoul estimate their expertise as being equivalent to that of the CIA.