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

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid