computer hackers target South and US
By Anna Fifield in Seoul
Published: October 4 2004 11:30
North Korea has trained as many as 600
computer hackers to be capable of launching a cyber-war on
South Korea, the US or Japan, South Korea s defence ministry
said on Monday.
Coming amid intelligence reports that
Pyongyang might be preparing to test a ballistic missile, the
report will exacerbate jitters over the extent of the communist
state s destructive ability.
North Korea s intelligence warfare
capability is estimated to have reached the level of advanced
countries, the ministry said in a report to the
National Assembly s national defence committee.
North Korea s military command has 500 to
600 hacking staff who have undertaken a five-year university
programme, the report said. Their main task is to gather
intelligence from - or launch a cyber attack on - the US, Japan
and South Korea.
In a wave of attacks earlier this year,
nearly 300 South Korean government computers at departments
including the National Assembly and an atomic energy research
institute were infected with viruses capable of stealing
passwords and other sensitive information.
South Korea is particularly vulnerable to
cyber-crime because it has the world s highest usage of
broadband services and relatively poor levels of internet
The South Korean intelligence traced the
hackers to China, although it was unclear whether they were
based in China or just using a Chinese network.
The defence ministry s report comes as
Pyongyang s relations with Washington, Seoul and Tokyo
North Korea is refusing to return to the
diplomatic table for the latest round of six-party talks
between the countries, as well as China and Russia. The talks
have reached an impasse owing to what Pyongyang calls the US s
hostile policies towards North Korea.
The process has been further complicated by
recent revelations that South Korea has enriched a small amount
of uranium and separated plutonium in secret experiments during
the past 22 years.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the
International Atomic Energy Agency, on Monday held talks in
Seoul with Lee Hun-jai, the South Korean prime minister, as
part of the agency s investigation into the experiments.