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S. Korea's Cyberwar Against N. Korea's Nukes

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the updating-antivirus-for-peace dept.

The Military 57

An anonymous reader writes "Yonhap News Agency reports that South Korea has announced it is developing offensive cyber-capabilities to target North Korea's nuclear facilities. Yonhap speculates the tools will be similar to the Stuxnet computer virus the U.S. used against Iran's uranium enrichment program. A report in The Diplomat questions this assertion, noting that a Stuxnet-like virus would only temporarily disrupt Pyongyang's ability to build more nuclear weapons, while doing nothing to address its existing ones. Instead, The Diplomat suggests Seoul is interested in developing cyber-capabilities that temporarily disable North Korea's ability to launch nuclear missiles, which would be complement Seoul's efforts to develop precision-guided missiles to preemptively destroy Pyongyang's nuclear and missile facilities."

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NK has limited internet links so are the sites eve (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 8 months ago | (#46303383)

NK has limited internet links so are the sites even online?

Re:NK has limited internet links so are the sites (4, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#46303423)

Don't need to be. Stuxnet got into Iran's offline nuclear program computers on a USB stick. The trick is making a really hellaciously virulent bit of malicious software, something that can become a global-level nuisance, and in time it'll find its way onto the target machines.

http://www.wired.com/threatlev... [wired.com]

Re:NK has limited internet links so are the sites (3, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 8 months ago | (#46303683)

The trick is making a really hellaciously virulent bit of malicious software

The other trick is not blabbing to the press about what your intentions are.

Re:NK has limited internet links so are the sites (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46303989)

Until after you've accomplished your task.

Re:NK has limited internet links so are the sites (1)

Dins (2538550) | about 8 months ago | (#46304423)

Or unless you want someone to think you're doing something you're not.

Re:NK has limited internet links so are the sites (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46306479)

Yea, press releases are so much cheaper and easier.

Re:NK has limited internet links so are the sites (1)

BForrester (946915) | about 8 months ago | (#46304327)

Certainly not. That's the easy part.

Re:NK has limited internet links so are the sites (1)

number17 (952777) | about 8 months ago | (#46303825)

Im thinking that the people who have access to those computers wouldn't be able to get a USB key into the facility. They are likely the few people in NK that have a use for a USB key.

Re:NK has limited internet links so are the sites (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 8 months ago | (#46304021)

"NK has limited internet links so are the sites even online?"

They are at the moment.

Both of them.

Retro (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#46303391)

I wonder where they're going to find people familiar with infrastructure that obsolete. Presumably there's a wise old beard in a back office somewhere, getting the last laugh on his peers for refusing to let go of the 1980s.

How do they plan on doing that? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46303415)

Just how exactly are they going to disrupt Best Korea? Send a man up with a hammer to start smashing all the vacuum tubes?

Re:How do they plan on doing that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46427151)

Moth armies.

This is a BAD idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46303443)

NK has no issue shelling SK over perceived slights etc. This will be viewed as an outright hostile act if they were to ever launch a cyber attack on NK. SK playing with fire IMHO. The US reserves the right to respond with military force to a cyber attack, you think NK won't do the same ?

Re:This is a BAD idea (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#46303463)

The difference between the US and NK is that the US has the resources to back up such a response. If North Korea made such an aggressive move, it would be in a very different boat and as insane as they seem to be, they realize that even their few allies are getting tired of them. The US on the other hand doesn't rely on its allies just to feed its populace during peacetime, much less during war.

Re:This is a BAD idea (2)

Anonymice (1400397) | about 8 months ago | (#46304037)

Whilst horribly under-equipped & outdated, North Korea has the largest army of foot-soldiers/infantry in the world. Adding that Seoul is also only 35km from the NK border, I wouldn't want to place any bets. If the North goes down, it'll take the South with it & flood China's already delicate border regions with a huge number of refugees.

Unless it gets taken down from the inside, I don't expect to see any changes in NK during my lifetime.

Re:This is a BAD idea (3, Insightful)

JeffAtl (1737988) | about 8 months ago | (#46304701)

Any foot soldiers trying to walk across the border would be destroyed by air support. When it comes to stopping advances and toppling a government, foot soldiers aren't really relevant.

That being said, NK doesn't even need nukes to threaten South Korea. The thousands of artillery emplacements in range of Seoul are all that are needed to destroy the city.

NK wants the nukes to fend off the US, not South Korea.

Re:This is a BAD idea (1)

Anonymice (1400397) | about 8 months ago | (#46305681)

Oh, no doubt the casualties would be catastrophic, but don't underestimate the power of sheer numbers. The Arab uprisings are a good example of its efficacy.

NK wants the nukes to fend off the US, not South Korea.

Their only influence on the US is through their threat to the South, as they lack any long range capability. The best they've managed to do was fire a chunk of metal into the lower atmosphere - that's a long way from an ICBM.

Re:This is a BAD idea (1)

JeffAtl (1737988) | about 8 months ago | (#46307509)

Sheer numbers wouldn't even get past the DMZ.

Re:This is a BAD idea (1)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | about 8 months ago | (#46305007)

When North Korea starts putting the nukes on the launch pads, I don't think South Korea is going to sit around and debate whether they'll be offended by a cyber attack.

Re:This is a BAD idea (1)

mbkennel (97636) | about 8 months ago | (#46305129)


When North Korea starts putting the nukes on the launch pads, I don't think South Korea is going to sit around and debate whether they'll limit themselves to a cyber attack instead of an all-out air-raid.

Re:This is a BAD idea (1)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | about 8 months ago | (#46305329)

Admittedly. Redundancy is good, too.

What could possibly go right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46303461)

How can you be sure you don't infect the launch systems and launch against yourself?

Re:What could possibly go right? (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#46303487)

You may want to look up how Stuxnet works... or at least read the article. It discretely changes some tiny parameters that, once used in production, will render the end product inoperable or even damage itself. To go from that to "launching against yourself" is a pretty monumental leap. Personally, I'd just make sure I commented out the "Launch Against Seoul" code - the part with the GPS coordinates embedded in it.

Only work if documents we on computer. (1)

crovira (10242) | about 8 months ago | (#46303681)

As things stand, I doubt that the NK is that advanced. It doesn't need to be. There were NO COMPUTERS when the first A-Bomb was dropped or when V2s flew.

The purpose of an atomic bomb atop a rocket is to get near enough to a target and detonate.

It does not need any sophistication to do so,

it just needs enough propellant, a crude guidance system (like a cheap GPS [use existing infrastructure,] some actuators for targeting and detonation,) air bursting at height seems to generate a big blast.

Re:Only work if documents we on computer. (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#46303863)

To say there were "NO COMPUTERS" is pretty inaccurate. There were no microprocessors, yes, but there were analog computers as far back as 1872 and they were used extensively during the first World War. Modern computers were initially developed as a direct result of WWII threatening to erupt in Europe. The British Colossus was used during the war by codebreakers - ten variations of it was in use before the war was over. Over in the US, the ENIAC was created to help with the war effort - including the construction of the hydrogen bomb. They weren't terribly sophisticated by today's standards, but it wouldn't be a leap to assume N. Korea has gotten their hands on something magnitudes more powerful - even a 1970's era computer.

Re:Only work if documents we on computer. (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#46304557)

Feynman recounts his adventures in parallel processing with old-fashioned computers at Los Alamos in one of his books. You literally walked between machines with results that they were waiting on. The message-passing interface was people!

Re:Only work if documents we on computer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46304751)

And the computers themselves were female 20-something-year-olds and most likely single.

Re:Only work if documents we on computer. (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 8 months ago | (#46303873)

it just needs enough propellant, a crude guidance system (like a cheap GPS [use existing infrastructure,] some actuators for targeting and detonation,) air bursting at height seems to generate a big blast.

GPS is controlled by the US military. If North Korea tried launching a missile that used it, surely the US would turn it off in the area.

Re:Only work if documents we on computer. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46303907)

As things stand, I doubt that the NK is that advanced. It doesn't need to be. There were NO COMPUTERS when the first A-Bomb was dropped or when V2s flew.

That's entirely inaccurate. Colossus [wikipedia.org] was in use by Bletchley Park at the time; the German Z3 [wikipedia.org] was invented well before the first V1 missile was launched, though it was never used for that purpose; and ENIAC [wikipedia.org] was in the process of being built during the period of the Manhattan Project. In fact, one of ENIAC's first programs was a feasibility study of the hydrogen bomb.

You meant to imply that no computers were used for the guidance or development of these weapons, though that would also be debatably inaccurate [wikipedia.org] , since the definition of "computer" is a very nebulous thing.

Re:What could possibly go right? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 8 months ago | (#46303563)

It may be better to reprogram the missiles 180 degrees so that if ever launched, they go north into China, instead of to SK and then sit back and watch China clean up NK.

Re:What could possibly go right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46319249)

yeah, because the Chinese would stop before they reached the sea, for sure!

Can't see this working. (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 8 months ago | (#46303535)

NK is not the most connected country. The launch systems almost certainly aren't networked (Even the most idiotic designer is going to want an air gap), and probably don't use the most sophisticated of computerized control systems. I wouldn't be surprised if the silo doors are operated by ladder-logic controllers. There might just be nothing to hack. The greatest vulnerability is probably communications from whereever central command is (I'm sure they have a somewhat unimpressive immitation of NORAD burried somwhere) to the missiles - the radio links can be knocked out via simple jamming at sufficient power, but there are sure to be landline backups. Possibly via teletype machine.

Electronic warfare exploits an enemies sophisticated technology against them. NK may have the ability to build a nuclear bomb, but it may well be launched with computer systems that would have been considered obsolete twenty years ago. I expect they are reluctant to depend upon imported components, so a lot of it will be long-outdated.

Re:Can't see this working. (1)

N1AK (864906) | about 8 months ago | (#46303657)

Electronic warfare exploits an enemies sophisticated technology against them. NK may have the ability to build a nuclear bomb, but it may well be launched with computer systems that would have been considered obsolete twenty years ago. I expect they are reluctant to depend upon imported components, so a lot of it will be long-outdated.

Iran doesn't yet have working nukes and has hardly had the best relationship with the west and stuxnet appears to have worked... One has to assume that if they are doing this then the South Koreans think there's a fighting chance of it working. Stuxnet is also an example of someone planning, and succeeding, in getting a virus onto an isolated network.

Re:Can't see this working. (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 8 months ago | (#46303921)

Iran is not a technological backwater.

Waste of money (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46303539)

1. They cannot even build a freaking bottle rocket without screwing it up.
2. The second they nuked SK they'd be wiped off the face of the earth by multiple nuclear powers.
3. Even though Kim Jong-un is a god in the eye of the people he does not wanna die like the rest of the gods before him. Wait what?
4. Kim Jong-un does not wanna be remembered as the man er I mean god that caused the destruction of his entire country to blow up a measly few miles of SK.
5. Torturing your own people is not fun when they're all dead.
6. He's not had a chance to ban 10 things I faked because of you. Zing
7. Who would be left to report on snow coffee, and red cross curtains?
8. Someone has to stop the bird killers.
9. Photoshop
10. .. .... Meow

Re:Waste of money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46303865)

You get better at it the more times you try.

10 points for stealth. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46303559)

What a clever, clever way to disguise their intentions, methodology and actions, announce it to the world.
Who would have ever guessed?

Re:10 points for stealth. (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#46303601)

Sometimes, not disguising your intentions, methodology and actions is better than whatever the actual system is. It's a basic principle of effective deterrence in a MAD situation. And as far as the two Koreas are concerned, it's still pretty close to MAD even if no nukes are used.

Re:10 points for stealth. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46304073)

Sometimes, not disguising your intentions, methodology and actions is better than whatever the actual system is. It's a basic principle of effective deterrence in a MAD situation. And as far as the two Koreas are concerned, it's still pretty close to MAD even if no nukes are used.

And whether you've deployed something like Stuxnet into NK or not (and this works better if you haven't deployed anything), what more effective way could there be to have the NK programme tear itself apart trying to find the traitors in their midst?

It's like the old high school prank that involves releasing three skunks into a school. Using a water-soluble paint (we don't want to hurt the skunks), mark "1", "3", and "4" on the skunks. The school will be disrupted for days looking for nonexistent skunk #2.

Farcical adult movie plot, that is. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46303581)

As far as I heard, North Korea's atomic weapons manufacturing programme is an almost exact copycat of the early 1940's american Manhattan Project. That is, cyclotrons refining U-235 are controlled by office clerk ladies, who sit in front of dial gauges all day long and adjust the voltage manually if the needles wanders off the prescribed value on the scale, without knowing a dime about nuclear physics or electro-dynamics.

Not a super efficient method, but officice girls are pretty hard to infect via plugging with an USB pendrive, or at least such an act qualifies more like adult movie performance, rather than a cyber attack... Furtnermore, considering the age and advancement of DPRK tech, those office girls may need to be stuffed with a donkey member sized vacuum tube bulb, rathern than a mere 3" pendrive. Levitational Cisagralis for cyber warriors, anyone has some in supply? Except that pornography is punished by execution in North Korea! You see, their defences are airtight.

Reaslistically what may work, is some kind of a Geronimo-style air mobility special operations manouver, complete with stealth-modified BlackHawk choppers and Gorgon Eye multi-tube night-vision equipped DevGRU commando soldiers, to kidnap the north korean nuclear stockpile at gunpoint. The Pentagon regularly brags they would be able to pull off such a stunt on Pakistan's stockpile, should that country ever fall under taliban control. On the other hand, DPRK commandos have a frightening reputation of being modern day ninjas, they chop down yankees with axes and it is also unlikely that Russia would allow USA to pull off a Geronimo copycat stunt so close to its own borders.

which would be complement Seoul's efforts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46303589)

Waiter! I'll have a chicken tupogi with a side of kimchi for would be complement dinner.

Serious question here... (1)

MikeRT (947531) | about 8 months ago | (#46303595)

How do they even know that they'll be able to target North Korea in this way? North Korea's systems are likely crude, home-grown solutions compared to Iran which used Siebel systems and stuff like that. North Korea is by comparison one Chinese power change away from being functionally embargoed by every other country on Earth. This strikes me as something akin to the Independence Day ending in reverse.

Re:Serious question here... (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 8 months ago | (#46303749)

This strikes me as something akin to the Independence Day ending in reverse.

So...the aliens...uh...send a nuke...via a captured P-38 from the 40s...and dock with the pentagon...and upload a virus that disables all of our ships around the world. Or something?

Yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46303909)

That is what he said, right?

Re:Serious question here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46304151)

I believe we have the plot for the long anticipated sequel.

remote detonation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46303667)

Now they just need to figure out how to remotely detonate North Koreas arsenal. They wouldn't know what hit them.

These type of information (1)

abednegoyulo (1797602) | about 8 months ago | (#46303751)

are often hidden from the public. You don't tell what you are going to do. Did the US bragged about Stuxnet before using it? The worse thing that could happen is North will sabotage some "projects" that they have and blame it to the South.

Re:These type of information (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46304667)

are often hidden from the public. You don't tell what you are going to do. Did the US bragged about Stuxnet before using it? The worse thing that could happen is North will sabotage some "projects" that they have and blame it to the South.

Depends.

It's entirely possible that the goal is to hinder NK's nuclear program by inducing paranoia. The Stuxnet virus is well known for successfully infiltrating an air-gapped nuclear production facility, and SK has unquestioned technological superiority over NK.

From NK's perspective they hava threat from an enemy who may well have the ability they've claimed. If they ignore the threat they're taking the risk that SK wasn't lying, and if they go looking for it no amount of failing to find it will be adequate to prove that they are safe.

It costs SK nothing to make the information public, but responding to the threat has only loosing outcomes for NK (the only winning outcome would be if they take new security steps and manage to counter the extant virus, but that only works in SK actually makes and sends the virus)

Wrong assumptions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46303887)

North Korea's nuke launches likelly involve no technology at all. Beloved leader Kim Jong Un grabs and throws the ICBM himself.

Five words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46304171)

"What could possibly go wrong?"

And what happens then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46304551)

North Korea launches all out attack with it's million man army, assuming there is no bloody military coup. Nice strategic thinking there, [derogatory expression about mental abilities]. Only way such capability makes sense is in the connection of all out war and invasion, in which case the North has likely isolated their systems already long before.

Re:And what happens then? (1)

JeffAtl (1737988) | about 8 months ago | (#46305409)

Million man armies are useless for conquering anything that has air superiority.

paradigm shift (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46304665)

so .. in reality this is a jab at how back-ways n.korea still is, having to use a rotary dial phone to call the missile silo, so they can flip the breaker for the fuse and then yell out the window to a soldier to go light a match on the rocket? or more like: "I'm gonna call me a that web-cam hotty over for a quicky"-you-can't-do-that u non-digital un .. one?

the first rule (1)

Khashishi (775369) | about 8 months ago | (#46305587)

The first rule about cyberwarfare is you don't talk about cyberwarfare.
The second rule about cyberwarfare is you don't talk about cyberwarfare.

Did Israel announce that it was developing Stuxnet? That would be monumentally stupid.

Re:the first rule (1)

locopuyo (1433631) | about 8 months ago | (#46305887)

Maybe this is actually a fake article by John McAfee because he is looking for asylum in NK.

First rule of Cyberwarfare (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about 8 months ago | (#46305869)

Is don't say that you are going to do it.

wow (1)

jimmellonsouthkorea (3558263) | about 8 months ago | (#46380071)

Kim Jong Un wont like this.
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