“We are Anonymous North Korean government is increasingly becoming a threat to peace and freedom.” – Anonymous
Yesterday, an extensive cyber attack against the North Korean government was carried out that harvested over 15k passwords to inaccessible government accounts on web servers based in North Korea and China. The most interesting fact about this operation (which is being called “Operation Free Korea”) is that is is being carried out not at the behest of the United States or any other government, but by the private hacker group which dubs itself “Anonymous”.
Anonymous, which has been held previously responsible for attacks against United States government digital infrastructure as well, demands the abdication of Kim Jong Un and the opening of North Korea to unfettered Internet access. The group has performed distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) against various North Korean websites, including official sites of the North Korean government and the state-run airline Koryo. In proof of their actions, Anonymous posted this statement containing details of six North Korean accounts.
Cyberwarfare has emerged as a new field in traditional conflict between nations and is now apparently being used as the preferred tactic of private groups against government entitites. Stuxnet, a worm speculated to have been developed by the United States and Israel, was discovered in several Iranian nuclear facilities in June 2010 as having decimated Iranian nuclear capabilities by causing Iranian centrifuges to spin at random frequencies. The utilization of Stuxnet propelled cyberwarfare into a new realm of tactics, one in which digital strikes can do actual kinetic damage to a nation’s infrastructure.
More recently, the United States itself has fallen victim to a series of damaging cyber-attacks which have been traced back to the People’s Republic of China. In February of this year, 115 US companies (including many defense firms) claimed to have fallen victim to a number of cyber-attacks originating from a Chinese cell in Shanghai belonging to the Peoples’ Liberation Army’s 3rd Department, China’s equivalent of the National Security Agency.
Perhaps most famously, however, is Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks scandal, which in November 2010 released an enormous archive of unredacted US State Department diplomatic cables containing classified information. The leak, the biggest of its kind in history, threatened numerous American operations around the world and, according to former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, put “innocent lives in danger” and “threatened national security”.
The United States flew two B-2 bomber groups over North Korea last week and has moved destroyers closer to the Korean peninsula in an effort to deter North Korea from its current military ambitions. However, if the actions of Anonymous and various other cyber groups is any indication, actual military action may not be necessary to bring down the Korean regime from within. In our world, information (even state secrets) is not always as secure as most would believe. It is possible that with the right tactics, we may be witnessing a Korean (and dare I even say, Chinese) Spring sometime in the near future.