Reinforcing cyberdeterrence

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Reinforcing cyberdeterrence

Prosecutors tentatively fingered North Korean hackers for the recent network breakdown of one of Korea’s largest banks, Nonghyup. They discovered that one of the internet protocol addresses used to break into the network was identical to the one used for distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks in 2009 and this year, which were attributed to a North Korean hacking group.

Seoul officials suspect North Korea’s telecommunications ministry to be behind the spate of cyberattacks. It is embarrassing to learn that a country that prides itself as an information and technology powerhouse can be exposed as so vulnerable to North Korea’s hackers.

North Korea is known to have acquired sophisticated cybermilitary capabilities. Intelligence officials believe Pyongyang’s telecommunications ministry runs a 1,000-man army of hackers with several bases in China. They are suspected of being responsible for some of the over 48,000 computer intrusions in government computer networks since 2004.

The latest foray into Nonghyup’s computer network, however, has been different from mere breakdowns of public organizations’ Web sites. Attacks have become more meticulous and sophisticated, as evidenced by the North’s invasion of a major bank’s computer system.

The world is now wired, allowing anyone to link up to individual, corporate, government and military resources. In short, anyone can mess up a social and even a national network.

The Nonghyup case underscores the extent to which the entire country, private sector as much as the government sector, is exposed to cyberterrorism from outside hostile forces. Nonghyup’s computer network was victimized by a noxious computer code. There may be numerous toxic viruses spread by zombie computer networks out there seeking their next targets.

According to the National Intelligence Service, Korean entities are the target of over 150 million cyberattacks a day, 43 percent of them capable of stealing confidential state information. We must regard the current situation as a serious security threat. As in all defense mechanisms, deterrence is paramount.

The government should take after the U.S., where the Department of Homeland Security spearheads cybersecurity, uniting various units in various government agencies for a more concerted and effective operation against cyberattacks. Cyberterrorism is as much a threat to our security as a physical attack. We must reinforce our defense and deterrence systems quickly.

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