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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    What Your First Name Says About Who You Support for President

    Bobby, Betty and Curtis tend to support Donald Trump while people named Juan, Liz or Mohammad are more likely to lean toward Hillary Clinton

    South Pole Diary: In Round-the-clock Darkness, Radiant Moon Shines Like the Sun

    You hear more and see more when the moon first comes out; it’s your senses in overdrive, tuning into a new world.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora