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Military cybersecurity under siege

Sept 11,2015
The Korean Navy’s operation data from Aegis-equipped destroyers has been hacked. Intruders broke the code of the Navy’s electronic data link that contained operational strategy on destroyers with the Aegis combat system. Aegis is an integrated naval weapons system backed by radar that can track aircraft at a distance and guide weapons to targets. It is deemed the most powerful and safest defense system today. In 2007, Korea became the fifth state in the world to carry the Aegis system on the King Sejong Great destroyer.

However, the question has to be asked: How could the country’s most reliant defense system have been hacked? The Defense Security Command is trying to hunt down the hackers, but it won’t be easy. Korea’s cybersecurity is in serious doubt if the defense network is in jeopardy.

The country has been vulnerable to cyberattacks by North Korea. North Korea has been blamed for malware that led to a breakdown in South Korea’s nuclear reactor, media and banks, after hacking the networks of Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power and the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation. North Korea is also suspected of breaking into the networks of a private company that is in charge of computer security for the Ministry of National Defense. While the two Koreas were holding high-level talks last month to address the heightened tension after the land mine blasts at the border, a suspected North Korean hacking group spread malicious code using an email from Bulgaria.

North Korea’s cyber capabilities are deemed to be first-rate. The so-called Bureau 121 under the Reconnaissance General Bureau is said to be equipped with over 3,000 professional hackers. They have planted zombie computers in Korea and can strike anytime. In 2011, websites of the South Korean presidential office and other government agencies were disabled by a cyberattack from North Korea. North Korea even shocked Washington when it hacked into Sony Pictures for ridiculing its leader Kim Jong-un in the comedy movie “The Interview.”

Our defense in cyber warfare has been pitiful. A purchase by the state intelligence agency of malware to hack into mobile devices was condemned by the opposition and suspected to be for civilian surveillance. The state spy agency of course must not snoop on civilians, but it cannot give up on cyber warfare. We need to strengthen counter cyberattack capabilities and groom experts fast.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 10, Page 34




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