There has been a lot of speculation lately about North Korea and its hacking capabilities. Traditionally noted for its nuclear weaponry, the panic and digital devastation left behind in the wake of the recent Sony data breach has U.S. government officials questioning the communist nation’s IT prowess. I’ve heard a few people dismiss the North Korean dilemma as a non-issue, but you may feel otherwise after getting familiar with the hacking culture in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The Privileged of Pyongyang
As it turns out, the hackers believed to be responsible for the assault on Sony Pictures may not be your typical Script Kiddies seeking peer recognition after all. Reports suspect that they are highly skilled computer experts and members of “Bureau 121”, a high-level military-operated spy agency that targets victims, including neighboring South Korea, on order from the government. Reuters recently spoke with a couple of individuals who have intimate knowledge of North Korea’s hacker community, one of whom actually studied with members of the group at a military computer school in Pyongyang.
Jang Se-yul, a former student at the University of Automation, told Reuters that the members of this increasingly infamous clique of hackers are carefully selected, and basically bred to dismantle enemy systems before they’re old enough to drink. Although it’s a legitimate learning institution, the training ground sparks images of a prison camp with its fortress-like construction and shield of razor-sharp barbed wire fences. Nonetheless the chosen few are treated swell as Jang said they are not only thought of as wealthy citizens, but collectively viewed as an elite branch of the North Korean military.
National Cyber Security Solutions
Unfortunately, North Korea is only one nation that appears hell bent on using computers to cripple America’s IT infrastructure. Before the latest fiasco, China was identified as the most active cyber threat to national security. According to leaders polled in a Defense News survey, cyber warfare, not terrorism, is the biggest threat the United States currently faces.
So what are we doing to counter these efforts and preserve the future of our nation’s IT infrastructure? There are a few things, but let’s start with the “Five Pillars”. The Five Pillars is a comprehensive strategy the U.S. military and Department of Defense have come up with to combat cyber warfare. These five elements are outlined below:
First Pillar: Recognize that the Internet and computers in general combine to create a new battle zone similar to the environment global military forces have shed blood in for centuries.
Second Pillar: Take a proactive security approach that enables the rapid detection and mitigation of cyber threats.
Third Pillar: Ensure that cyber security efforts protect telecommunications systems, water supply, financial services, and other national critical infrastructures.
Fourth Pillar: Work collectively with domestic and foreign allies to strengthen national security.
Five Pillar: Leverage technology to improve security and continue to advance it.
In 2009, President Obama decided to incorporate recommendations from the CyberSpace Security Review into the National Comphrensive Cybersecurity Initiative. He also appointed an Executive Cybersecurity Coordinator, who is responsible for working with major players across the state and local governments as well as the public and private sectors to develop solutions that protect the privacy and security of the country. The CNC Initiative aims to leverage these coordinated efforts to promote cybersecurity awareness from the barracks to the boardrooms to the classrooms.
After sifting through all this information, it’s clear to see that U.S. leaders want us to realize that technology is both a thriving industry and a powerful weapon that can aid in protecting the nation’s security. The ever looming threat of data breaches keeps corporate America investing in securing the infrastructure. The national military has already poured millions into defense-driven IT projects. Whether it’s all enough to carve out an edge in the game of cyber warfare remains to be seen.