Don't Underestimate North Korea
Earlier this year, there were cyber-attacks on South Korean computers that erased much data, harmed bank records, and silenced the websites of anti-North Korea political groups. Some speculated that these attacks were planned intrusions of North Korean cyber-warfare agents.
Recent official reports confirm that these attacks are indeed the work of North Korean government agencies. Japan Times reported the findings of an extensive study by South Korea, including work by the American company McAfee. North Korea was indeed the culprit, as witnessed by the cyber-"fingerprints" left by the perps.
South Korea's Ministry of Science said it was blaming North Korea based on analysis of codes, Internet addresses and personal computers used to launch the attacks. The attacks occurred June 25, the 63rd anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War.
The image of North Korea in the United States is that of a backward country that can barely feed itself, let alone engage in sophisticated computer intrigue. Nah, it couldn't be North Korea, some wags would say. It must be China behind the scenes, they speculate.
The recent investigations into the March and June cyber-attacks on South Korea brought to light the shape and methodology of North Korea's cyber-weapon. They do indeed have their own resources to do damage over the internet. Although much of the country may live hand-to-mouth, North Korea cultivates quite a serious computer-hacking capability.
According to Strategy Page:
Since the late 1980s, Mirim College in North Korea has been known of as a facility that specialized in training electronic warfare specialists. But by the late 1990s the school was found to be teaching students how to hack the Internet and other types of networks. ... Each year 120 students were accepted (from the elite high schools or as transfers from the best universities). .... The school contained five departments: electronic engineering, command automation (hacking), programming, technical reconnaissance (electronic warfare), and computer science. There's also a graduate school .... for a hundred or so students.
North Korea is quite sophisticated when it comes to electronic warfare, as is becoming clearer as more investigation is done. South Korea, which relies on computer communication as a vital part of its national life, is unlikely anymore to dismiss North Korea with the back of its hand.
Not that South Korea is passive in this drama. Chosun Ilbo, one of South Korea's main news sources in English, chronicles a number of intrusions by hackers into North Korea's civilian and military systems.
The game is on. It is not a one-sided match.