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

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.

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TOPICS: Hardware, Security
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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

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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10 comments
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  • Considering...

    As South Korea, I believe, has the most Internet connections per capita and most South Koreans run Windows XP unprotected, with their internet security on low so they can run all of their ActiveX "security" add-ons, it's no surprise that NK is able to hack them consummate ease.
    A Grain of Salt
    • RE: North Korea hacks South Korea's computers as nutty PR stunt

      @A Grain of Salt <br><br>you're absolutely right. I tried to secure my wife's computer here in South Korea just to realize that I had just about disabled her access to pretty much every website she needed access to in the process. People here need to work in an administrative account and may need to have the security features of IE disabled in order for the banks, online shops, and other organizations to "secure" the computer with ActiveX plugins. I find this situation absolutely hilarious because it makes absolutely no sense to me from a security perspective, but that's life in South Korea.
      Necrolin
  • RE: North Korea hacks South Korea's computers as nutty PR stunt

    ...so switching South Korea to Linux is important to our national security? Cool!
    tburzio
    • Wouldn't that just give North Korea

      free reign to everything on the South's computers?

      How is that good for national security?
      John Zern
  • RE: North Korea hacks South Korea's computers as nutty PR stunt

    It's just the modern equivalent of aircraft dropping propaganda leaflets.
    AndyPagin
  • You cant play starcraft on linux... so a change wont happen soon.

    You also cant play starcraft on windows 7, so until starcraft 2 comes out of beta, i dont see many upgrading.

    You may think this sounds funny, but 1 in 4 koreans play starcraft. I think that numbers insane but supposedly true. There was some mention about a curfiew to deal with the problem.

    I can see why they are addicted... but they should use more security at home.
    Been_Done_Before
  • As for the article.. it sounds like the hacks are a way for the NK citizens

    to try and avoid war. No one wants the war more than US contractors. I doubt either side wants to engage each other. The probably want to just live their lives, the north knows they have a crazy leader and this is their way of apologizing.

    He talks alot of crap.. but in the end.. he will belly up to the chinese.
    Been_Done_Before
  • RE: North Korea hacks South Korea's computers as nutty PR stunt

    Bad enough Big Kim Chee throws his nuclear tantrums; anti-virus and Linux should get him real mad!
    BananaBoatWireless
  • RE: North Korea hacks South Korea's computers as nutty PR stunt

    I just have 2 words for North Korea:

    Neutron Bomb

    Let's get this damn show over with and get on with civilization.
    DaveMorris
  • RE: North Korea hacks South Korea's computers as nutty PR stunt

    Been Done Before, "No one wants the war more than US contractors." ???? Put your tin foil hat back on.
    johannk