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Making sense of North Korea's hacking strategy

18 5 2

Pyongyang is ramping up its cyber warfare. Just this week, a White House official blamed North Korea for the WannaCry attack that took down hospitals, banks and businesses in May and noted that Facebook and Microsoft recently took action against the infamous North Korean Lazarus hacker group. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In late September, the security company FireEye Threat Research discovered spear phishing emails sent to U.S. electric utilities “by known cyber threat actors likely affiliated with the North Korean government.” The company says it stopped the attacks, which it described as an early-stage reconnaissance“not necessarily indicative of an imminent, disruptive cyber attack.” It remains unclear what information, if any, the hackers obtained from the attacks.

The potential for North Korea to destroy critical infrastructure without a nuclear weapon has largely been ignored, yet Pyongyang has enough cyber offensive capability to cause serious damage. In 2014, a cyber attack on Sony Pictures destroyed files and leaked sensitive internal emails online. Washington blamed North Korea for the hacking, and responded by allegedly interrupting North Korea’s internet access for about a week after the attack. More recently, the U.S. Cyber Command reportedly tried to block online service to North Korea’s powerful intelligence agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau(RGB), by flooding it with traffic from multiple sources. The RGB reports directly to Pyongyang’s National Defense Commission, which is directly controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un himself.

Overall, however, North Korea’s isolation makes it hard for the United States to come up with an effective strategy to counter Pyongyang’s cyber attacks. The closed nature of its society means Washington has had to rely on outside sources for intelligence-gathering........

© Japan Today