Analysts say cyber capabilities have become a key asset in North Korea’s war chest. Pyongyang’s increasingly bold attacks in the virtual space have come in tandem with the hermit nation’s rapidly progressing ballistic missile and nuclear programs and some say that it’s time this is taken very seriously.
The rogue regime has used cyber attacks for a wide range of purposes including hacking adversaries like South Korea and pilfering money. North Korea’s hackers have been accused of carrying out some of the most audacious cyber attacks of the past few years, from siphoning millions of dollars to stealing state secrets.
“North Korea’s cyber weapons are as destructive as its conventional weapons,” Lim Jong-in, a cybersecurity professor at Korea University, told CNN. “Tomahawk missiles can paralyze a major country’s power grid and financial system. So do North Korea’s cyber weapons.” Lim continued, saying: “Cyber experts say North Korea should be ranked among the top 5 in the world. I believe North Korea can steal anything they want through cyber espionage. No country is safe from its cyber espionage.”
In the latest revelation, a member of the South Korean ruling party said Tuesday that North Korea stole classified military documents from a South Korean Defense Ministry database in September 2016. They included a document that included plans to “decapitate” the North Korean leadership.-CNN
But that isn’t all. Cybersecurity firm FireEye said Tuesday that it detected and stopped an attack on US electric companies by people with links to the North Korean government. The skill of these hackers is actually impressive considering they live in a country where the internet is heavily regulated by the government. The citizens living under Kim Jong-Un’s dictatorship only have access to a government-run, heavily censored intranet rather than the full depths of the world wide web. Yet those restrictions have not stopped the hackers from improving their abilities.
“North Korea almost certainly has the capability to conduct disruptive and potentially destructive attacks, as well as more traditional cyber espionage operations,” Bryce Boland, the chief technology officer for Asia-Pacific at FireEye, told CNN. “North Korea has little connectivity and relatively limited reliance on technology, making it less vulnerable to attacks,” he said.
In February 2016, $101 million was fraudulently transferred out of the Bangladesh central bank’s account at the New York Federal Reserve and eventually made its way to the Philippines. Researchers found that the hackers responsible for the theft carefully routed their signal through France, South Korea, and Taiwan to set up their attack server, but made a critical mistake that established a connection to North Korea. Nonetheless, most of the funds have not been recovered.
Analysts also say that North Korea has been preparing similar operations targeting cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, as international sanctions make it harder for North Korea to use the dollar.
North Korea’s advancements in their weapons is concerning enough, but add in the actual real threat of a cyber attack, and we could experience a major disruption to our way of life.