North Korea hacks South Korea's computers as nutty PR stunt

Summary:North Korea is doing the international politics equivalent of claiming their baseball did not break Old Mr. Johnson's window.

On one hand, North Korea seems silly. You've got Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il, who owns 20,000 American movies and has a strange fascination with the Friday the 13th and Rambo movies, Elizabeth Taylor, and aviator glasses.

The country has a nominal Gross Domestic Product of about $28 billion (that's about a thousands bucks per person in the country). Put another way, the entire country makes less per year than Tyson Foods, and yet has as its motto, "Powerful and Prosperous Nation".

On the other hand, North Korea is a little scary. They have the fifth-largest army in the world and, according to Nationmaster.com has more army personnel (per capita) than any other nation in the world. They also have quite a lot of military equipment, including -- according to the Library of Congress Federal Research Division -- about half as many tanks as China (but with a population that's 1/55th the size).

In other words, North Korea may be amusing to poke fun at, but they have the ability to bite back.

This becomes important when you consider the conflict between North and South Korea. Both sides want the country whole, but are ideologically farther apart than Sarah Palin and Nancy Pelosi.

In March, the ROKS Cheonan (PCC-772), a small, highly maneuverable warship of the South Korean Navy sank off the coast of Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea. All indications are that the ship was sunk by torpedo shot from a North Korean miniature submarine.

Not only has South Korea made this claim, but it's been backed up by United States official statements indicating that we have physical evidence that the shot came from North Korea.

In other words, it's pretty much your basic act of war kind of thing.

North Korea denies this. And while they've previously denied it on their own strange little variant of television, they're now trying to use South Korean citizens to support their claims.

Here's where it gets a little hinky. Apparently, the North Koreans have been hacking into PCs of South Koreans, and then spreading rumors and allegations that the North was not responsible for the sinking.

The whole idea, apparently, is to show that even South Koreans don't believe the claims of South Korea. It's an interesting and different use of hacking. North Korea isn't hacking these computers for money. They're not hacking them for any military benefit.

No, they're simply hacking into these computers to do the international politics equivalent of claiming their baseball did not break Old Mr. Johnson's window.

Kim Jong-Il. A whole lot of entertainment in a five-foot tall package.

Topics: Hardware, Security

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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