Korea's presidential office plans to set up a cyber security control tower inside its National Security Office to deal with cyber attacks. Spokesman Min Kyung-wook says that the move is aimed to strengthen the top office's role in cyber security and to respond more effectively to cyber attacks. And the Cabinet today approved the creation of a new presidential post to handle cyber security.
The move came after a series of cyber attacks in South Korea and the United States in recent months. North Korea has a track record of waging cyber attacks on both countries, though it has denied any involvement in these high-profile cases.
Last December North Korea reportedly leaked internal documents from the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) five times. According to the South Korean government-led joint investigation team, North Korean hackers used Internet protocol addresses in Shenyang, China to access the KHNP network. They published designs, manuals, and other information about South Korean reactors on Twitter, along with personal information about workers.
Earlier this month, the hackers’ group disclosed some 10 internal documents leaked from the KHNP and a memo that it claimed as a transcript of a phone conversation between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, even demanding money. The leaks prompted the South to heighten cyber security and form an investigation team involving experts, government officials, and state prosecutors. However, the South Korean government could not earn collaboration from China. The team could not induce judicial assistance from the Chinese government to probe the Shenyang region. Accordingly, the interim investigation failed to discover the real identity of the hackers and the de facto power behind the cyber attack, and failed to provide clear countermeasures.
Although the hacker’s real attempt to paralyze the entire system at the South Korean nuclear power plant operator ended in failure, the national security system and investigation process on cyber attacks turned out to be incompetent.
In contrast, the U.S. reportedly launched swift countermeasures, including cyber attacks against North Korea after accusing it of being behind the hacking of Sony Pictures. The communist regime reportedly damaged the computer network of Sony's Hollywood film unit last November over its controversial North Korea-themed satirical comedy film “The Interview,” which depicts a plot to assassinate the communist nation's leader Kim Jong-un.
Last week, the U.S.’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper predicted the future to be an ongoing global cyber war, mentioning the biggest perpetrators of cyber attacks. North Korea was counted as the most notorious cyber attacker following last year’s Sony hack. The Sony debacle is by far the most advanced action that North Korea has taken against another regime.
Clapper also emphasized the necessity of changing and developing cyber tactics. He described future attacks which will change or manipulate electronic information in order to compromise its integrity. Present hacking focuses on either destroying infrastructure or gaining access to private information. But in the future, hackers may launch more clandestine cyber espionage programs that manipulate data so victims lose credibility. Clapper advised that what countries must do is not to try to eliminate cyber threats, but more actively manage potential risks.
As one of the world's most wired nations, South Korea faces the most persistent cyber perpetrators. At any rate, cyber warfare is a reality here in Korea. President Park has warned that South Korea could be susceptible to cyber attacks unless thorough security measures are put into place, as everything is connected to the Internet. Earlier this year, Park appointed Lim Jong-in, dean of the Graduate School of Information Security at Korea University, as her special cyber security advisor.