Fighting yesterday’s wars

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Fighting yesterday’s wars

It is shocking that our military’s wartime operational plan was hacked by North Korea. The Ministry of National Defense discovered the hacking of its defense computing network by North Korea in early December, but kept mum about the full implications citing an ongoing investigation of the incident. The bombshell truth has recently been reported by local media.

The wartime operational plan contains guidelines for our military activities during a war with North Korea. We are dumbfounded that such sensitive military information was leaked to North Korean hackers. More shocking is our military authorities’ consistent effort to cover up such a grave case of hacking until the media reported it.

Even though North Korea began to hack our military computing networks from Sept. 23, 2016, our military only discovered it on Dec. 5 . In other words, it was not able to detect the North’s persistent cyberattacks for more than two months. It turned out that North Korea implanted malicious code on a total of 3,200 personal computers connected to our defense computing network — 700 PCs inside the military compound and 2,500 PCs outside of it. Defense Minister Han Min-koo’s PC also was infected with the malicious code.

The malicious code is aimed at procuring the sensitive military information Pyongyang desires to see. Nevertheless, our defense ministry kept silent.

The lead-up to the hacking only makes us more surprised. From the beginning, our military did not separate its defense computing network from the Internet or conduct regular security checkups. Control of the network was anything but safe and secure. As the hacking began at the Defense Integrated Data Center (DIDC), which is responsible for keeping all types of military information, the Defense Security Command and the National Intelligence Service are focusing on investigations of the Cyber Command in charge of overseeing the DIDC.

But defense ministers must take the lion’s share of the blame for the leaks. They not only neglected to reinforce our military’s cyberwar capabilities, but also appointed unqualified generals as head of the Cyber Command. In comparison, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army boasts 100,000 soldiers with expertise in cyberwarfare while North Korea has 6,000. Our military has only 600. In this day and age, our defense ministers did little to enhance our cyberwar capabilities.

Future wars will be carried out by robots and automated systems based on computer networks, which are easy targets for hacking. North Korea’s cyberattacks doubled last year. China is increasingly tempted to take advantage of its top-notch cyberwar capability. Our defense ministry must do its best to raise our military’s cyberwar power.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 5, Page 30
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