Cyber warfare

North Korea was pinpointed Wednesday as the perpetrator of a massive cyber attack that paralyzed more than 30,000 computers and servers at the nation’s banks and broadcasters last month.

The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning said the series of cyber attacks on March 20, 25 and 26 resembled methods North Korea had attempted in previous cases. According to news reports, six computers in North Korea were used to access South Korean servers using more than 1,000 IP addresses overseas and 13 of those IP addresses were traced back to North Korea. Surprisingly, the attack had been planned for eight months before it was launched.

Given the minuteness of the investigation results, we believe Pyongyang was behind the cyber terrorism and it can’t avoid a public accusation in this regard. The incident also awakens us to the realization that the Stalinist regime in the North has begun cyber warfare against the South in earnest.

North Korea’s cyber warfare capabilities are known to be strong enough to rival America’s. Its military General Reconnaissance Bureau reportedly operates a unit of 3,000 elite hackers while maintaining bases in China to launch cyber attacks against the South at any time. Some North Korean defectors claim the reclusive country has been training nearly 30,000 hackers.

Given the number of communication networks in South Korea that boasts being the world’s top in terms of Internet penetration, the government must map out strong measures to cope with the new breed of attacks. But what has been done with regard to our cyber security is quite deplorable.

Amid the recurrence of cyber attacks, the ruling and opposition parties concurred on the need to establish a cyber security control tower on the national level but the plan has been adrift amid partisan strife over who should take charge. The government wants to entrust the task to the National Intelligence Service, citing efficiency in operation, but the opposition parties oppose that argument, in turn citing the spy agency’s track record of past political intervention.

This is no time for the rival parties to engage in a war of words, considering the full-blown advent of cyber warfare on the Korean Peninsula. If the danger of political abuse by the NIS is a concern, the Prime Minister’s Office can take charge of the control tower or an independent unit could be created. At the same time, utmost efforts should be focused on training talented personnel to protect our cyber security.

What’s most dreadful is that the isolated regime may launch cyber attacks on major infrastructure, such as nuclear power plants, at any time. Given that these attacks would cause unimaginable damage, the government should once again fully review its preparedness for cyber terrorism.