S. Korean military to launch cyber warfare center next year

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will launch a cyber warfare center under the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) later this year to protect the military network from rising hacking attempts by North Korea, the JCS said Tuesday.

In a report to the parliament, the JCS said it has updated its contingency plan to classify North Korea's cyber threat as a "non-military provocation" and is recruiting members for its own team tasked with preventing cyber attacks to operate the center at the start of next year.

The latest move is aimed at countering cyber threats from North Korea, which is believed to have trained an elite force of "cyber warriors" to infiltrate South Korea's computer network.

While the team's specific role is not yet known, the JCS said it will defend its military network by sharing information with related agencies, including the defense ministry's Cyber Warfare Command and the National Intelligence Service, the key spy agency.

"The JCS's cyber team will mainly protect the military network, and will not have an offensive or defensive role in cyber warfare," a senior JCS official said, asking for anonymity.

Following a massive attack against the websites of South Korean government agencies in 2010, the defense ministry established a 400-member Cyber Warfare Command of soldiers and civilian experts to enhance cyber warfare capabilities.

While defense plans regarding cyber warfare are largely kept in the dark, the latest move is seen as the military's forthcoming efforts to confront potentially disruptive cyber attacks in one of the world's most wired nations.

The total damage from North Korea's cyber attacks on South Korea's computer systems is estimated at more than 860 billion won (US$805 million) between 2009 and 2013, according to the defense ministry.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>