News / Asia

    North Korea's 'World Class' Cyber Attacks Coming from China

    FILE - An investigator entering the Cyber Terror Response Center of the Korean National Police Agency is reflected on a window in Seoul.
    FILE - An investigator entering the Cyber Terror Response Center of the Korean National Police Agency is reflected on a window in Seoul.
    Daniel Schearf
    North Korea is often viewed as impoverished, isolated and technologically backward. However, officials in South Korea have said that recent cyber attacks traced to Pyongyang have demonstrated hacking capabilities that are world class. Seoul's spy agency further claims that North Korea has trained a cyber army and that its soldiers are receiving support in China.

    This month, South Korea's National Intelligence Service gave new details on the scale, operation and goals of North Korea's cyber army of trained hackers.
     
    In a closed-door meeting with the intelligence committee of South Korea's National Assembly, the NIS described seven North Korean hacking organizations and a network of spies operating in China and Japan.
     
    It quoted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as saying cyber warfare is just as strategically important to Pyongyang as missiles and nuclear weapons.
     
    Ruling party lawmaker Seo Sang-ki is chairman of the committee. He said that North Korea has established its hacking point in China because it is geographically close, the Internet infrastructure is more developed and its activities can be protected.
     
    Seo also said that there appears to be about 1,700 North Korean hackers and 4,200 supporting agents active in China. That number, he claimed, is increasing. He also said that the North Koreans earn foreign money by developing software in China and perform hacking activities to collect national industrial secrets at the same time.
     
    The NIS confirmed an earlier report that Pyongyang accessed a South Korean IT company's internal documents in China through an employee of a local subsidiary.
     
    In October, South Korea's KBS TV reported that the attack may have been an attempt to infiltrate Seoul's computer networks; the attacked company had built information systems for government organizations.
     
    Seo would not give the name of the South Korean company, only referring to it by the initial “S.”
     
    China routinely denies it is the origin point of cyber attacks and maintains that China itself a victim of hacking.
     
    Kim Hung-kwang, president of the North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, said that although Beijing knows North Korean hackers launch attacks from inside China, it has never arrested or expelled any North Koreans. Therefore, Kim said, it appears North Korea is committing the attacks under China’s tacit consent. He said that it is also known that Chinese and North Korean soldiers exchange malicious codes and attack techniques created by Pyongyang.
     
    Despite strict controls limiting Internet access to elites, Pyongyang has been training hackers since the 1990s. While most of its early attacks were simple and used pre-existing computer codes, experts now say they are becoming more sophisticated.
     
    Kim said that North Korea is developing its own hacking codes and using them to test South Korea's security for a cyber war. He also claimed that North Korea’s goal is to successfully complete cyber attacks on national infrastructure, including gas, electricity, transportation and nuclear power.
     
    Seo noted that because North Korea’s Internet system is so closed off, it is easy to defend. That gives North Korea a tactical advantage.
     
    On the other hand, the United States and South Korea have a system in which Internet infrastructure is densely developed all over the country and the security of private firms is relatively weak.
     
    North Korea is believed to be behind attacks earlier this year that shut down tens of thousands of computers and wreaked havoc on major banks, media and government agencies. South Korean officials say the economic cost was estimated at $800 million.
     
    Seo is urging his fellow lawmakers to draft a bill authorizing a more effective response to cyber attacks.
     
    VOA Seoul Producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.

    You May Like

    How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Probe Targeting China's Statistic Head Sparks Concern

    Economists now asking what prompted government to launch an investigation only months after Wang Baoan had been vetted for crucial job

    HRW: Both Sides in Ukraine Conflict Targeted, Used Schools

    Rights group documents how both sides in Ukraine conflict carried out attacks on schools and used them for military purposes

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.