US, South Korea join forces to prevent cyberattacks by North Korea

Last month's malware attacks prompt move to prevent future cyberwarfare

By Jennifer Chang, IDG News Service |  Security

Recent massive cyberattacks that paralyzed computer networks at several South Korean banks and broadcasters, strongly suspected to have been launched by North Korean hackers, have prompted Washington and Seoul to come up with tough new countermeasures to stop Pyongyang from waging information warfare in the future.

"The U.S. and South Korean militaries will cooperate to develop diverse deterrence scenarios against hacking attacks and increase anti-cyberwarfare forces to over 1,000 to better deal with emerging threats from countries like North Korea," said Kwon Kihyeon, a spokesman at South Korea's Ministry of National Defense.

Details of this new counterstrategy cannot be revealed now for security reasons, Kwon said. But the plan is to finish drafting the tactics by July, and test and review them during the next joint U.S.-South Korea military drills, which begin in late August, before they're implemented in October.

"The ministry will also set up a new department that acts as a control tower by integrating policies which defend military networks against hacking," Kwon added. "Its Cyber Command, a special unit of about 400 personnel members, currently manages the policies with other defense and intelligence organizations, but there is no coordinating body."

South Korea's military uses two computer networks that are much harder to launch DDoS (distributed denial of service) or malware attacks on than local civil networks, according to Kwon. This is because they are both intranets that are not connected to the Internet.

"The intranet used for military maneuvers can only be accessed by a small number of people," Kwon said. "Thus, it is very secure and couldn't fall victim to North Korean hacking. But more users can access the other intranet -- namely, all members of South Korea's military. So there's a tiny chance it could be infiltrated. Therefore, the U.S. and South Korean militaries will be drafting measures to better protect it," Kwon added.  

  

North Korea runs a cyberwarfare unit of at least 3,000 expert hackers with the aim of breaking into foreign computer networks to get information and spread computer viruses, according to Sung-Yoon Lee, a professor of Korean studies at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

Last month's hacking assault on South Korea -- the largest in two years -- using malware, coupled with the recent military threats from Pyongyang directed at Seoul, have raised unprecedented concern about potential cyberterrorism by the North against the South. It's no wonder North Korea is widely suspected of carrying out the attack, Lee explained.

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