North Korea is believed to have hackers that can cause a cyber war. Prof Kim Heung-Kwang said the country had around 6,000 trained military hackers. The warning follows last year’s Sony Pictures hack that saw the Film Production and Distribution company taken hostage by vicious cyber-criminals that targeted the then yet to be released film, The Interview. Korean technology expert Martyn Williams has stressed that the threat by posed by the North Korean hackers as theoretical. He has however called on the International community to step in to prevent North Korea hackers from launching more severe attacks.
Prof Kim has been teaching computer science at Hamheung Computer Technology University. His former students have formed North Korea’s notorious hacking Unit called unit Bureau 121. The bureau, which is widely believed to operate out of China, has been credited for numerous hacks. Many of the attacks are said to have been aimed specifically at South Korean infrastructures such as power plants and banks. The size of the cyber-attack agency has increased significantly, and now has approximately 6,000 people.
Prof Kim estimated that between 10 to 20 per cent of the regime’s military budget is being spent on online operations and that is the reason why North Korea has been harassing other countries because it has the capacity to start a cyber war. The cyber attacks could have similar impacts as military attacks, killing people and destroying cities.
Prof Kim further provided that North Korea was building its own malware based on Stuxnet – a hack attack, widely attributed to the US and Israel, which struck Iranian nuclear centrifuges before being discovered in 2010. Earlier this year, the South Korean government blamed North Korea for a hack on the country’s Hydro and Nuclear Power Plant. Although the nuclear plant was not compromised by the attack, if the computer system controlling the nuclear reactor was compromised, the consequences could be unimaginably severe and cause extensive casualties.
When it comes to cyber-attacks, few groups are as notorious as North Korea’s Bureau 121, which has operated since the late nineties. ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers that manages the distribution of domain name including .com and .net could shut down the use of North Korea’s domain. ICANN’s primary role is the coordination of the Internet’s unique identifiers to ensure the stability, security and resiliency of the Internet. ICANN relies on law enforcement and governmental regulatory agencies to police reported illegal activity.
Prof Kim said that for the safety of Korea and other countries, the international community needs to pay attention to North Korea’s attempts to destroy the Internet.