A grave threat to national security

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A grave threat to national security

North Korea is under suspicion for yesterday’s cyberattacks against major television networks like KBS, MBC and YTN, as well as financial companies including Shinhan Bank and NH Bank. Their computer networks broke down simultaneously about 2 p.m. Given the gravity of the attack on core infrastructures and the timing - shortly after the latest South Korea-U.S. joint military exercise - it most likely came from outside groups hostile to the Seoul government.

In fact, North Korea has repeatedly been involved in cyber provocations since 2009, when it launched distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against portal sites of government agencies, not to mention repetitive hackings at computer networks of NH Bank in 2011 and the JoongAng Ilbo last June. Pyongyang threatened to counterattack after access to the portal sites of its Korean Central News Agency and Rodong Shinmun - the state’s official mouthpieces - was denied earlier this week by attributing it to a “mean action by antagonistic forces.”

If the latest cyberattacks turn out to have originated from the North, that’s a brazen security threat to us in light of the immense role of communication networks in our society. A bigger problem, however, comes from us because state-run organizations failed to detect or prevent cyberattacks despite Pyongyang’s repeated warnings after its third nuclear test last month.

The government must include cyberattacks in the concept of security. It must learn lessons from U.S. President Barack Obama, who proclaimed in 2009 that America’s digital infrastructure is a strategic asset. After his declaration, the U.S. government established the U.S. Cyber Command, a counter-cyberterrorism headquarters led by the head of the National Security Agency, to reinforce cybersecurity in the military and civilian sectors.

The government must devise strong measures to cope with the new breed of attacks by first establishing a cybersecurity control tower on the national level as a comprehensive “situation room” for cyberwar. At the same time, the government must prepare long-term measures to augment the cybersecurity system.

The new government must come up with an impregnable cybersecurity system by systematically training talented personnel to cover the public and private sectors. The civilian sector must also invest heavily in strengthening cybersecurity. That’s a precondition for our survival.
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