North Korea is actively expanding its cyber warfare unit, recruiting and training students of all ages, according to recent reports issued on the subject. Last year alone, North Korea increased its “cybertroop” numbers from 500 to 3,000 hackers.
According to Kim Heung-kwang, a former computer science professor in North Korea before defecting to the South, the North Korean government is selecting young students across the country that show an understanding of math and the computer system and grouping them in the elite Keumseong school for middle and high school students. After graduating from the six year program, the students attend an expedited program at one of the country’s top technology universities and institutes, only to be sent abroad to Russia or China to solidify their hacking skills. After the overseas training is complete, the now young adults are placed in warfare units to serve as “cyberwarriors.”
North Korea’s youth are being trained in advanced cyber warfare techniques.
“Grooming prodigies, deploying them, setting up Internet, buying programs, and providing conditions for them to operate in China or another third country is considerably cheaper than buying new weapons or fighter jets which cost hundreds of millions of dollars,” explains Kim Heung-kwang.
Indeed, cyber warfare is a growing threat to the United States and its allies. While South Korea has experienced its share of cyber attacks from the North, such as the one in April that brought down a bank’s network, the United States is feeling the affects as well. Last week the CIA’s website was hacked by a group that calls itself LulzSec – the same group that recently claimed credit for hacking into sites for PBS, Sony, the U.S. Senate and others. And even though the hackers caused no harm to its victims, the fact that they were able to take down the CIA website for a short period of time is unacceptable.
According to cyber security experts, any future conflict will involve cyberspace. The United States needs to make cyber security a priority in order to prevent colossal damage from occurring in the future. Computer systems and the Internet hold vital government information and if attacked, it would be a devastating blow to the country’s welfare.