President Donald Trump has stated that the U.S. will use “the full range of military capabilities” to defend America and its allies against North Korea, and one possible option could be cyber warfare.
“It is 100 percent possible” that the U.S. could prevent a nuclear strike by hacking a North Korean missile, David Kennedy, a cyber warfare and intelligence expert, told Business Insider.
North Korea’s offensive capabilities are improving. The North could probably attack South Korea or Japan with a nuclear-armed missile, and it is developing the ability to strike the U.S. South Korea and Japan are protected by layered defense, such as the South’s Korea Air and Missile Defense system, multiple Aegis destroyers, and Patriot Advanced Capability interceptor units. The U.S. has ground-based midcourse defense systems in Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
Missile defense systems are not surefire safety nets though. Not only have these systems never been tested in an actual combat scenario, they have failed in past drills. Missile defense is complicated, as it essentially involves hitting a bullet with another bullet.
The U.S. and its allies could perhaps use cyber warfare to boost their defensive capabilities. “Within military intelligence spaces, this is” is how things work, Dr. Ken Geers told BI, adding, “If you think that war is possible with a given state, you are going to be trying to prepare the battle space for conflict. In the internet age, that means hacking.”
Kennedy asserts that the U.S. could “plant [malicious] code in all of the missiles that could ever be launched, their guidance systems and everything else and only use it in the event we detected an actual launch happening that was overtly going towards us.” Perhaps the implanted code could cause the missile “to launch back at them and blow up in their face.”
Some observers, including the New York Times, suspect that North Korean missile failures may be the result of a U.S. cyber campaign against North Korea’s missile program. Other analysts attribute North Korea’s unsuccessful missile launches to poor-quality missiles, unreliable equipment, and incompetence.
Kim Jong-un is well aware of this threat and believes that allied forces may be behind certain unexpected complications during weapons testing. The young dictator requested an investigation last fall into whether or not the U.S. and its allies were using cyber warfare to sabotage the North’s efforts to develop a reliable missile program. The probe began after North Korea had two back-to-back failures in October, reports the International Business Times. Awareness and the ability to address the threat are two very different things, and it appears North Korea does not yet have the tools to eliminate this threat to its missile program, especially if code were buried in hardware devices.
The use of cyber warfare and other approaches to take out potential ballistic missile threats are known as “left of launch” tactics — preemptive strike methods involving non-kinetic technologies, such as electromagnetic propagation and cyber warfare to eliminate nuclear and ballistic missile threats prior to or just after launch.
With Stuxnet, a worm, the U.S. was able to derail Iran’s nuclear program, Kennedy explained, adding that the same approach could be used to reduce the threat posed by North Korea. He notes that U.S. Cyber Command has the ability to carry out this kind of assault on North Korean systems.
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