“How North Korea Built Up a Cadre of Code Warriors Prepared for Cyberwar”
The Christian Science Monitor, February 6, 2015
“Indeed, when US and Chinese officials met Thursday to talk about defense policy issues, cyberattacks were expected to be at the top of the agenda. It is China, after all, that has the biggest chance of exerting any influence on North Korea’s nefarious hacking activities, if they choose to do so. Some analysts speculated, for example, that when North Korea lost its Internet connection in the wake of the Sony hack, it was not the US but rather China that had sent North Korea the warning. … Much of the intelligence that both US and South Korean officials have been able to cite is based on reports from defectors who claimed that they were close to North Korean cyber-operations as scientists who either worked with them or who trained some soldiers assigned to the technical units. … The two chief units are 121 and 91, both of which belong to the Reconnaissance bureau of the General Staff Department (more commonly known as the Reconnaissance bureau, or RGB) and are headquartered in Pyongyang. The RGB is responsible for North Korea’s clandestine operations, to include cyber and overseas intelligence. … Reportedly headquartered at the Chilbosan Hotel in Shenyang – a Chinese military district that borders North Korea – Unit 121 is tasked with taking out the command, control, and communications systems of the South Korean military in the event of an armed conflict. … As dire as this sounds, however, there remains plenty of disagreement among the world’s foremost computer security experts about just how skilled North Korea is in the cyber realm. … In addition to their own cadre of trained cyber soldiers, North Korea also has a ‘huge’ network of state-sponsored black market operations in places such as Singapore, Malta, and Japan that are associated with criminal gangs…. ”
Quickie Analysis: Right now, North Korea is entirely dependent on China to get online. However, later this year Kim Jong-Un is meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin and is expected to discuss access to servers in Russia.