The tension between North Korea and South Korea is always high, both governments are spending a great effort to improve their cyber capabilities and to try to silently attack the neighbors.
North Korea has the highest percentage of military personnel in relation to population, it has approximately 40 enlisted soldiers per 1000 people with a considerable impact on the budge of the country. Last year a defector has declared that North Korea has increased its cyber warfare unit to staff 3,000 people and it is massive training its young prodigies to become professional hackers.
“The large cyber force responds directly to the command of the country’s top intelligence agency, the General Reconnaissance Bureau. Last year in internet have been published satellite photos of the area that is suspected to host North Korea’s ‘No. 91 Office’, a unit based in the Mangkyungdae-district of Pyongyang dedicated to computer hacking, its existence was revealed at a seminar on cyber terror in Seoul.”
On the other side of the peninsula, the South Korea is also working to improve its cyber defense and according to recent news the Government of Seoul is also designing a new generation of cyber weapons to target North Korea critical infrastructure.
The Stuxnet case has demonstrated the effect that a cyber weapon could have against a critical infrastructure, in the last weeks we already discussed of an alleged secret joint venture of Israel and Saudi Arabia to hit once again the Iranian Government.
Iranian report states that Israel and Saudi Arabia are plotting new computer cyber weapon to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program like happened with Stuxnet. Saudi spy agency, Mossad are collaborating in the design of malware worse than Stuxnet.
According Yonhap news agency also the South Korea, inspired by Stuxnet, wants to create and use a cyber weapon, the plans are dated 2010 and were proposed to the Government on February 19th.
The South Korea desire to hit nuclear facilities in the north, the North Korea in fact is intensificating the testing of nuclear weapons conducted in underground with controlled explosions. The explosions caused earthquake last year, it’s the third time since 2006 that so important tests are executed.
“Once the second phase plan is established, the cyber command will carry out comprehensive cyber warfare missions,” said a senior ministry official referring the possibility to target North Korean nuclear plants.
The repercussions could be serious for the region, but more in general, they could trigger a series of malicious events also in the cyber space. Prof Alan Woodward, a security expert at the University of Surrey commented the events to the BBC highlighting the risks related to the cyber information warfare escalation in the Korean peninsula.
“[The weapon] could end up damaging all sorts of things you never intended it to,” he said.
A part the public disclosure of the news I consider not surprising the intent of South Korea to develop a cyber weapon, both governments in my opinion are already working on the designing of cyber tools for their arsenals … and probably they are already using them.