The United States should worry more about North Korea's cyber attack capabilities than its nuclear arsenel, if the latest reports are any indication.
A Bloomberg report has quoted General James Thurman, Commander of the United Nations Command and US Forces in Korea, as saying that Pyongyang has roped in hackers who possess cyber inflitration capabilities. North Korea employs sophisticated computer hackers trained to launch cyber infiltration and cyber attacks, Thurman was quoted as saying.
Thurman revealed the details of a report to be presented at a Congressional hearing in Washington on Wednesday. His report indicates that Pyongyang has been ramping up cyber warfare capabilities over the past years in an alarming scale.
The report says North Korea's cyber warfare abilities can pose a real threat to both the US and South Korea and that for the North it is an ideal weapon.
Why Cyber Attacks?
North Korea is an impoverished country and it depends on external aid to feed its population. But still that does not deter it from going for costly nuclear and missile technology to terrorize its neighbor South Korea and the West.
For decades the military regime in North Korea has been successfully arm-twisting the West into giving them aid in exchange of nuclear moratorium promises, which they have seldom kept.
However, it is still not clear how lethal is North Korea's actual nuclear capability. Several international experts believe that the North might have some know-how on nuclear bomb building, but not enough skill to use it as a warhead. Their financial situation might not allow them to go for full-fledged investment in nuclear capability, though they are claiming otherwise. Furthermore, whatever the North's claims, South Korea, supported by the US, is always a stronger enemy in conventional warfare.
This makes cyber warfare an ideal choice for the North if they really intend to attack the US and South Korea. Though the general perception is that North Korea is the least connected in the cyber space, both the US and South Korea have ample evidence to show that North Koreans were involved in a series of cyber attacks targeting the US and South Korean institutions in the past.
The investigations by Washington and Seoul on a series of cyber attacks on the US Independence Day in the past years pointed towards North Korean IPs, a CBS News report has said.
A cyber war makes more sense to the North because it is cheap, easy to launch and can be waged anonymously. Pyongyang has the human resource needed for cyber warfare and has the means to train it, thanks to the hacking prowess of its biggest ally, China. There are reports that suggest that North Korea is identifying and grooming children in schools to strengthen their cyber brigade. These students hone their skills continuously and even get trained on most recent technologies in China.
Another factor that benefits the North is that it can carry out cyber attacks outside its territory, making it difficult for the enemies to point fingers against it.