South Korea Says North Korea Has 6000-Member Cyber Army

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

South Korea said on Tuesday that North Korea has boosted its cyber army to 6,000 troops, twice the number of cyberwarfare specialists Seoul estimated last year, reports the Associated Press.

Seoul’s Defense Ministry disclosed the new figure in a report and claimed that the North is advancing efforts to inflict “physical and psychological paralysis” in South Korea by launching cyberattacks that will disrupt military operations and national infrastructures.

The report also noted that North Korea may have also gained the ability to strike the U.S. mainland due to its progress in missile technology, which was demonstrated in several long-range missile tests between 2006 and 2013. However, the ministry did not elaborate on how it made its assessments.

This unsettling announcement comes after the FBI accused North Korea of hacking Sony Pictures over the studio’s lowbrow comedy The Interview, which depicts the fictional assassination of Kim Jong-un. In response, the White House has issued sanctions against North Korea’s defense industry and 10 government officials.

Pyongyang has denied involvement with the cyberattack–despite calling it a “righteous deed”–and expressed fury over the sanctions, accusing the U.S. for stirring groundless hostility.

Meanwhile, South Korea continues to accuse the North or conducting at least six high-profile cyberattacks since 2007. In March 2013, hackers froze South Korea’s banking system and broadcasters, crippling activity for days.

According to Reuters, North Korea has been actively strengthening its cyberwarfare cell Bureau 121, comprised of the country’s most talented and sophisticated computer experts. The isolated state may be eying telecoms and energy utilities as long-term targets, according to some defectors.


Photo courtesy of Korean Central News Agency/Reuters