National Security

Report Shows Kim Jong-Un’s Cyber Squads Could ‘Paralyze’ US Pacific Command

REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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A full-scale North Korean cyber attack could leave the U.S. Pacific Fleet, as well as parts of the continental U.S., in the dark, a South Korean defense agency revealed.

North Korea’s cyber warfare specialists could “paralyze” the networks for the U.S. Pacific Command’s control center and cripple parts of the U.S. power grid, the Defense Agency for Technology and Quality argued, citing recent Pentagon simulations.

Pyongyang has around 6,800 cyber warfare specialists, according to the South Korean Ministry of National Defense. Some experts believe the North could have as many as 30,000 hackers in its employ.

Some experts estimate that 10 to 20 percent of the North’s military budget is spent on cyber operations.

North Korea has been the primary suspect in a number of cyber attacks in recent years.

The South Korean military reported that it’s cyber command, a division set up to prevent hacking, was breached by North Korea earlier this month.

“It seems the intranet server of the cyber command has been contaminated with malware. We found that some military documents, including confidential information, have been hacked,” a defense official revealed Yonhap News Agency. He said North Korea was suspected to be behind the latest security breach.

North Korea gained a reputation as a cyber threat after it launched a major online assault on South Korea in 2013 that affected banks, broadcasters, and around 50,000 computers.

The attack reportedly cost the South $756 million.

Starting in 2014, Pyongyang began systematically targeting the computer networks in the South. Over a period of several years, North Korea hacked into over 140,000 computers and breached the security systems of more than 160 South Korean firms and government agencies.

Cyber terrorism is a relatively cheap-yet-effective tactic for impoverished nations like North Korea, South Korean cyber expert Lim Jong-in told the Korea Herald.

With only 600 personnel, South Korea’s cyber command is much smaller than North Korea’s cyber division.

“The enemy will seek to disable our cyber capacity at a critical point via an all-out cyberattack … It is crucial to establish an asymmetrical cyber warfare capacity to overwhelm that of the North,” the recent South Korean report argued.

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