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North Korea's cyber army the real threat not nuclear missiles

by Staff reporter
18 Mar 2018 at 08:33hrs | Views
The global informational space joins particular people the military as well as civil infrastructure. Nowadays there is no regulation in this sphere.

This situation creates perfect conditions for hackers. Despite the constant upgrading of systems, "cyber criminals" are still difficult to find and almost impossible to bring to trial.

Their activities don`t need big financial investments but the results of their acts bring considerable dividends.

The United States, China, the Russian Federation and Israel are leaders in the sphere of "cyber warfare" but the last time some strong gamers appeared, they were from Iran, India and the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK.)

So Pyongyang realises the advantages of "cyber influence" and together with the missile-nuclear programme, it considers it a very important element in the realisation of its national policy known as Songun or army is the first.

Leaders of the republic pay much attention to preparing the specialists in computer technologies and also create good conditions for their activities.

The most intelligent candidates are sent to study at specialised universities in China and Iran.

North Korea's information security experts or modern "cyber army" are high level professionals and are aggressive.

Ex-deputy director of the US Agency of National Security Chris English called Pyongyang's cyber programme "one of the most effective in the world as it can reach all targets determined with minimum expenses".

Despite the absence of clear evidence, the media and intelligence services attribute a lot of "cyber-attacks" on North Korean hackers.

An analysis of these incidents can mark the main targets of Pyongyang in cyber space.

First of all, numerous intrusions into information systems of financial institutions are a considerable source of money for the country that is under sanctions.

Moreover, North Korean hackers are a source driving the development of a national military industry by stealing technologies for military use.

Another important direction of specialist activity from the DPRK is personal information collection targeting personalities, armed forces and its main enemies – the US and South Korea.

Recent attacks where the virus WannaCry was used showed Pyongyang was able to destroy objects of civil infrastructure as well as military hardware.

All in all, the special place is taken by strengthening of the state and image of its leader. The US' Federal Bureau of Investigations believes North Korean was behind the recent attacks of Sony Pictures servers.

It should be noted that the DPRK's cyberspace activities differ in terms of asymmetry and ability to camouflage their acts.

The first peculiarity is on the isolation of the state on the Internet to avoid retaliation.

A British newspaper, The Guardian, says attempts by the US to use the Stuxnet virus to target the DPRK nuclear complex in May 2015 failed.

The camouflage works through access to the internet from the foreign territories.

The American edition "Business Insider" referring to experts on "cybersecurity" and intelligence reports affirmed that most North Korean hackers stay in a Chinese hotel known as Chilbolsan in Shenyang city.

A Recorded Future company specialising in information security says North Korean specialists also access the Internet from India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nepal, Kenya, Mozambique and Indonesia.

Pyongyang does some of its operations "under other flags". These attacks are often masked as works of Russian or Chinese hackers. Therefore, these countries get to be designated as threats to cybersecurity.

Gauging the real potential of the DPRK's cyber army is difficult. Intelligence services and IT-companies analytics don`t give a clear picture of the DPRK cyber army's composition, quantity and control system.

From time to time, the information about people employed in such activities changes from 50 to 17 000 employees.

According to the New York Times, there are more than 6000 hackers in the DPRK army. Most of them are based outside the country.

Therefore, North Korea's cyber threat is real and raises worries all over the world but the size of the threat is not known.

Analytics from the biggest IT-companies, specialists in information and antivirus security, representatives of intelligence and defence departments of the USA and Europe show a considerable potential in Pyongyang's information influence sphere.

They also affirm that there is low level protection from such attacks. As former US Internal Security ministry official Robert Silvers said, until the whole world focuses on Kim Jong Un's nuclear programme, North Korea will develop other weapons capable of inflicting significant losses to America even without any missile launch.

There is speculation on who will be the next target of the DPRK cyber army.

Despite the "warming in relations" between Pyongyang and Seoul, it is too early to speak about the willingness of North Korean leaders to make peace with their neighbour.

Washington has also not been very equivocal in supporting the descalation process on the Korea peninsula.

Our prediction is that the DPRK army will continue searching for weak points on the internet infrastructure of its opponents.

Some reports say North Korean tried to sabotage the recent Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang by breaking into the organisers' information systems.

The world is paying too much attention on the supposed nuclear threat ignoring the real threat, which is cyber warfare.

Source - the standard