N.Korea's Highly Trained Hacker Brigades Rival CIA

      May 05, 2011 09:03

      North Korea's 1,000 or so hackers are as good as their CIA counterparts, experts believe. Due to difficulties in expanding its conventional weapons arsenal following the economic hardships during the 1990s, North Korea apparently bolstered electronic warfare capabilities.

      The regime opened Mirim University, now renamed Pyongyang Automation University, in the mid-1980s to train hackers in electronic warfare tactics. A defector who graduated from Mirim University said classes were taught by 25 Russian professors from the Frunze Military Academy. They trained 100-110 hackers every year.

      The Amrokgang College of Military Engineering, the National Defense University, the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy also train electronic warfare specialists.

      A North Korean woman uses a computer in the Grand People's Study House, Pyongyang in 2008. /AFP-Yonhap

      Jang Se-yul, who served in a North Korean hacker brigade, said on Tuesday there are around two brigades, or 1,200 soldiers in total, directly supervised by the department that handles electronic warfare. "Each squad also operates a unit specializing in cyber warfare." The two electronic warfare brigades are stationed in Sangwon and Nampo in South Pyongyan Province.

      North Korea's General Bureau of Reconnaissance, which oversees all espionage operations against South Korea, also specializes in electronic warfare. A source said overall conditions for North Korea's electronic warfare units' hacking operation have improved because of the expanding Internet infrastructure in China. "In the past, they had to operate in faraway locations like Canada or Australia, but now they can operate effectively in areas close to the Chinese border." They apparently operate from Dandong and Dalian.

      In a 2006 report, the South Korean military warned North Korean hackers could even paralyze the command post of the U.S. Pacific Command and damage computer systems on the U.S. mainland.

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