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back to article NORKS harbouring 3,000-strong cyber army, claims Seoul

South Korean defence minister Kim Kwan-jin reckons Pyongyang has 3,000 highly trained hackers tasked with stealing military secrets and disrupting systems. In a warning clearly designed to set the alarm bells ringing in Seoul, Kim said that Seoul’s near neighbour to the north poses a clear threat to national security thanks to …

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A lot of stuff about Norks in the press

There seems to be a lot of talk about Norks in the press these days. Is someone trying to tell us something? Also, the snippet "army of 3000" comes up twice today in The Register - under an article about Foxconn and under this article about Norks. Both armies are supposed to be involved in IT programming or hacking. Coincidence? Or must be draw some weird but not altogether fanciful conclusions?

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Alert

This always makes me wonder...

The whole reason that the Norks general population isnt permitted the internet is to try and hide the realities that the rest of the world is not starving worse then they are and to maintain the belief that North Korea really is the shining beacon of humanity that their glorious leaders say they are.

But if you take 3000 people and task them with trawling the internet for things to attack and they will pretty quickly see that their leaders are full of sh*t (half an hour on Youtube should do it!). Now you can probably sweeten the deal for those 3000 by giving them access to everything, great pay, etc but eventually someone is going to let slip the truth to family members, who let slip to neighbours and before you know it an entire town is going to be aware that things arent quite as rosy as they are being told they are. At that point, keeping the word from spreading further is not going to be an easy task.

Add to that, that even the most basic script kiddie has to have some level of intelligence and so when confronted with evidence like that, they have to begin having second thoughts about the bollocks spewing from the "Great Leader" and you wonder why such info hasnt spread through the masses more widely.

I'm not suggesting that this army of 3000 doesnt exist but I'm also aware that people cant keep secrets (especially not 3000 script kiddies!), which makes me wonder how the Nork general population doesnt know more about the rest of the world. And why there isnt more of an outflux of people fleeing the sinking ship that is North Korea?

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Black Helicopters

Re: This always makes me wonder...

Good points there, lglethal. My question would be that is it possible to "highly train" someone to be a world class hacker, or even a script kiddie? Or is that particular skill something you develop a skill/passion for by being exposed to these computery thingmybobs at a very young age and firstly teaching yourself how to fiddle, then growing from there? Is it really posible to take someone who has never seen a computer or the internet until, say teenage or university age, then give them such exposure to use it for malicious purposes? It would need some very good professors and lecturers, who in turn must have been trained very well and given a lot of internet exposure. And could a country the size of NoK come up with 3000 such persons?

Or is this just another round of sabre rattling? Another WMD and 45 minutes to hit London claim to "sex up" South Koreas and the wests paranoia?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This always makes me wonder...

I think most Norks probably know their country is a dump compared to the rest of the world. I've spoke to a lot of older Eastern Europeans (40+) who say that they pretty much knew the propaganda was bullshit when they were behind the Iron Curtain. A lot of older Chinese that I know say the same about China in the 60s, most of them know about Tiananmen square as well.

They don't do or say anything about it because their governments monitor everything and they don't want to get killed.

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Re: This always makes me wonder...

"My question would be that is it possible to "highly train" someone to be a world class hacker, or even a script kiddie?"

Script kiddie easy to train... " Here's Metasploit.... Clicking this button will cause an attempted exploit against the numbers (IP addresses) you enter into this box" They don't need much in the way of imagination or creative thought.

World class hackers can possibly be trained, but they have to be smart and capable of creative, lateral thinking and have a good imagination and visualisation skills to put the training into practice.

A self trained world class hacker is a different beast entirely. Not only do they need all the cognitive and mental skills of the trained world class hacker they also need passion and commitment to get to the next level with no assistance. They find exploits where none are thought to exist. The first thing a good world class hacker learns is how not to get caught. If they don't learn this then they ain't a world class hacker.

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Re: This always makes me wonder...

"World class hackers can possibly be trained, but they have to be smart and capable of creative, lateral thinking and have a good imagination and visualisation skills to put the training into practice"

I can't see the Norks finding much local creativty and original thought, when they require the local population to be motivated by slogans like "Let's expand goat rearing and create more grassland in accordance with the party!"

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Unhappy

Re: This always makes me wonder...

@OP Iglethal

More than a decade ago and yes, the NK people wouldn't know what the rest of the world was really like. They thought they had "Nothing To Envy" (title of a very good book about defectors).

Nowadays more and more NKs are aware of the dystopian hellhole they live in, but what can they really do about it? They're raised as worker drones from birth, and any dissent of any kind is brutally and instantly punished, extending to the dissenters entire family. Even trying to escape the country is highly likely to end in death or your entire family in a prison camp for the rest of their lives.

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Re: This always makes me wonder...

As all the rest said above, they all know how bad it really is. Enough South Korean books, magazines, radios, and tapes get smuggled in for them to know that the Norks leadership is bullshit.

What keeps those 3,000 from doing anything "counter-revolutionary" with their newfound knowledge and access? Knowing that, if they get the smallest bit out of line with the Kim family, them and all their closest relatives (no shit, guilt-by-association) get an all-expenses-paid permanent holiday to such lovely destinations as Penal Labor Colony No. 14 in scenic Kaechon! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaechon_internment_camp)

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Joke

Well...

It's definitely good to keep abreast of what the norks are up to. ;)

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Three thousand hackers

One clapped out Compaq between them.

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Coat

Armed forces are running their own locked down network that's not the Internet? That's revolutionary! Maybe some of ours might like to consider that doing that (properly) is a good idea?

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Anonymous Coward

It's always funny when reading these stories about North Korea's CYBER ARMY OF DOOM!!!!

Do we have to remind ourselves who they're attacking? Probably the most wired up and internet savvy country per head in the world. You can be sure that if the Norks are hacking the South, then the South probably are hacking them back 100x as much. Well, the computer systems that teh Norks do have, which admittedly probably aren't great.

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That's the problem with starting an war on the interwebitubes.

If everything in S Korea is wired up and internetted it's rather easier to do some damage.

However many times more skilled hackers the south has - it's unlikely that the N Koreans have very much vital equipement connected to the internet waiting to be attacked.

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Wired up maybe

Internet-savvy perhaps.

Clued up? Not a chance.

SouthKorea's networks are full of gaping security holes - they don't take kindly to being told about 'em and even less kindly to being asked to fix 'em. Dakom is one of the worst offenders in this regard.

Mind you, the Japanese are worse, but at least there one can shame them into fixing things by making senior management aware instead of the IT folk (certain Japanese media love running stories about XYZ company having ABC problem, so management is highly sensitive to such things, vs the IT folk who tend to dig a hole and bury the problem)

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Joke

Not sure if to laugh or cry

""""Although details are vague, South Korea is apparently working to create a new mobile device security system to ensure confidential information can’t be nabbed from officials’ smartphones and tablets.""""

Yes, only in the perfect world this could be some"what" possible.

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Stop

Regarding YOUR SNARKINESS

I don't really know that much about Norkia. What I know is that propaganda is not the exclusive privilege of commie tyrannies. Our plutocracies do that, too. So, not all we hear about Norkia might be the truth. It might even be that Mr Kimmo plays a very valuable role for our plutocrats by making noise when silence is not good for US.

Secondly, you can say lots of things about commies, but what they understand is the security business from spycraft to fighter planes. Kimmo owns quite a few Mig29s which can potentially outturn anything the Sorks and Merika can muster, including the F22. So if the Norks find a way to tun of Merikas electronic advantage, they could stand a real change to win dogfights.

Regarding commie intelligence and long-range, covert reconnaissance forces - they were beating the crap out of services such as Germany's BND. In virtually all ways, including signals and computers.

What did the commies was the sleazy capitalist businessman exploiting his workforce, churning out massively more stuff at much higher quality. It was NOT their military and security forces, but the rot resulting from economic weakness.

Maybe Mr Kim simply has a Military Computer Science Unit ? Complete with professors of Colonel rank ? Tyrants are very often very concerned about security and consequentially "move fast" in new security things.

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