North Korea Continues to Strengthen Its Cyber Warfare Groups

Nov 22, 2017

“Groups of North Korean cyber combatants are composed of computer geniuses with an average age of 20. They are chosen at a very early age and are trained to be cyber combatants.”
Through a report on ‘North Korea’s cyber warfare skills and actual state’ that was introduced to a reporter from The Electronic Times on the 21st, President Kim Heung-kwang of North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity stated that North Korea has been cyber units since 1998 and it maintains its combat powers by continuously recruiting graduates from Kumsung Middle School’s advanced computer classes. It is likely that his report will become an important material for South Korea to prepare for cyber warfare with North Korea as it is the first report that specifies true nature and operation of North Korea’s cyber units in detail.
According to his report, Kim Jung-eun Government has been working on expanding and restructuring cyber units, which are asymmetric military options, since he inherited authority in 2011. North Korea had established cyber warfare headquarters since 2013 until last year with Bureau 121, which is part of The Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), at the center. “Reason why North Korea had spent three years in establishing cyber warfare headquarters is because it could not increase number of computer geniuses in a short period of time.” said President Kim.
Graduates from Kumsung Middle School’s advanced computer classes enter universities such as Kim Il-Sung University, Kim Chaek University of Technology, Pyongyang University of Science & Technology, and Mirim College and learn professional skills. After graduating these universities, they all study abroad and are assigned to units specializing in hacking after coming back.
North Korea’s cyber warfare units focus on its major hostile countries such as South Korea, U.S., and Japan, governments and militaries from potential countries, and major economic organizations’ servers. They are composed of task forces for particular countries so that they can perform cyber warfare globally. “North Korea formed separate cyber warfare units that specialize in South Korea, U.S., and Japan.” said President Kim. “North Korea extended cyber tactics organization under Bureau 121 that will perform special assignments.

North Korea’s cyber warfare groups (Reference: North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity)
<North Korea’s cyber warfare groups (Reference: North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity) >

North Korean Government under Kim Jung-eun recently strengthened its administrative functions such as selection and training of cyber combatants, procurement of finances, and cooperation between national organizations. By reorganizing cyber warfare guidance bureau, it established Strategic Planning Department, Joint Operation Department, Confrontation Department, Foreign Planning Department, Training Dispatch Department, Daily Guidance Department, Information Analysis Department, 180-so, and 110 Research Institute.
Strategic Planning Department establishes and orders overall strategies and combat operations and report results to the highest commander. Joint Operation Department commands Bureau 121 and establishes and performs joint military operations with other special forces. Confrontation Department selects targets from major hostile countries such as South Korea, U.S., and Japan and analyzes security conditions, technologies, and people in charge.
Foreign Planning Department provides conditions for planning, network, and facilities to cyber agents who are stationed in foreign countries. Training Dispatch Department is in charge of training and education in order to improve skills of cyber warfare units and agents from private organizations. Daily Guidance Department is in charge of managing and testing skills of personnel from important universities that are related to North Korean ITs and research institutes and foreign organizations. Information Analysis Department accumulates and analyzes information on individual organizations, groups, and people and cyber information obtained through hacking. 180-so is a group that is organized especially for cyber foreign exchange earning under the commands from the highest commander. 110 Research Institute is an organization that researches into cyber warfare strategies and develops related technologies.
“North Korea has been preparing cyber warfare since 1998 and it has established a system for 20 years.” said President Kim. “It is focused on strengthening its strategies by incorporating young and competent personnel.” He also added that South Korea needs to prepare solutions as soon as possible since number of cyber warfare professionals and support systems are insufficient compared to that from North Korea. South Korea recently is going through a hard time as former Minister Kim Kwan-jin of Ministry of National Defense was arrested for an incident involving his comments on cyber warfare headquarters and others.
Staff Reporter Kim, Insoon | insoon@etnews.com

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