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A new HP report suggests the reclusive country’s cyber warfare capabilities are rapidly making North Korea a credible threat to Western systems.
Warfare capabilities are on the rise despite being entrenched in ageing infrastructure and dampened by a lack of foreign technology.
According to a report released by Hewlett-Packard researchers and published by ZD NET, the so-called ‘Hermit Kingdom’ may keep Internet access from the masses and maintain an iron grip on information exchange, but this hasn’t stopped the country from training up the next generation of cybersecurity and cyber warfare experts.
A number of countries, including the United States, have imposed restrictions on North Korea which prevents the open trade of technologies which would enhance cyber tools and capabilities due to the regime’s treatment of citizens and closed-border policy. However, according to HP, the country is “remarkably committed” to improving its cyber warfare capabilities.
South Korea views the regime’s cyber capabilities as a terrorist threat, and has prepared for a multifaceted attack in the future – although it is important to note no such attack has yet occurred. According to a report written by Captain Duk-Ki Kim, a Republic of Korea Navy officer, “the North Korean regime will first conduct a simultaneous and multifarious cyber offensive on the Republic of Korea’s society and basic infrastructure, government agencies, and major military command centers while at the same time suppressing the ROK government and its domestic allies and supporters with nuclear weapons.” South Korea also claims that North Korea’s “premier” hacking unit, Unit 121, is behind the US and Russia as the “world’s third largest cyber unit.”
In 2012, South Korea estimated that North Korea’s hacking team comprises of roughly 3000 staff, while a report released by South Korean publication Yonhap upgraded this figure to 5900.
According to the PC maker, it is difficult to gather intelligence on the isolated North Korea’s hacking teams. Reports not only often come from the US and South Korea, but reports coming from the latter may be biased due to the political tension between the two regions. Another problem is North Korea’s heavy restriction on Internet use, which is censored by the state and only used by the social elite. However, this means that any attacks originating from the country are highly likely to be state-sponsored, and rogue actors are unlikely to exist. Cyberattacks will therefore be attributed to the country’s governing body. HP says that many attacks sponsored by the regime originate from other countries, including China, the US, Europe and even South Korea.