North Korea feared to have planted logic bombs in networks
By Yoon Sung-won
Seoul should investigate its digital networks and infrastructure thoroughly for Pyongyang's "logic bombs," a type of malicious code planted in a software system in peacetime that can be set off under given conditions, analysts said Wednesday.
Calling logic bombs "digital poisoning," Korea Defense Network head Shin In-kyun urged the government to take countermeasures.
"We are so complacent about the risks to our software and network systems. It is especially the case for the military, which doesn't have enough experts to deal with this significant issue," Shin said.
"North Korea has developed a formidable army of cyber warriors, who are suspected of having already planted many logic bombs in South Korea. In contrast, our cyber warfare command is so weak and undermanned. We don't have any sense of urgency on this crucial topic."
Lim Jong-in, head of Korea University's center for cybersecurity policy, has also criticized the government's lack of investment in cybersecurity.
"North Korea's cyber warfare command is run by around 6,000 workers. China has 100,000 at its cyber headquarters. But we only have 600," Lim said during a forum run by the Korea Internet & Security Agency (KISA) in December.
"South Korea seriously needs basic capabilities in cybersecurity. The next administration will need to escalate cybersecurity as an important part of its policy."
In March 2013, two South Korean news media companies and three banks were attacked by a logic bomb that wiped out hard drives and master boot records.
Though the source of the logic bomb attack has not been identified, North Korea's cyber warfare command has been repeatedly considered the culprit as it has continued to pose persistent cyber threats to other countries in recent years.
Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli historian famous for his bestseller "Sapiens," also recognized the imminent threats of Pyongyang's logic bombs in a recent interview with The Korea Times.
Asked if it is safe to assume North Korea has installed many logic bombs in South Korea, he answered, "It is extremely likely."
In his new book titled "Homo Deus," Harari articulated his warning on the perils of logic bombs.
"In the future, though, countries such as North Korea and Iran could us e logic bombs to shut down the power in California, blow up refineries in Texas and cause trains to collide in Michigan," he said.
"It is highly likely that networks controlling vital infrastructure facilities in the United States and many other countries are already crammed with such code."
Korea University Graduate School of Information Security professor Kim Seung-joo also said North Korea is highly likely to carry out cyber attacks.
"After the North's latest missile test and the assassination of its leader's half-brother, the regime may escalate cyber threats, be it logic bombs or other types of cyberattacks, amid heightened tensions between the two Koreas," Kim said. "Accordingly, I understand South Korea's cyber warfare command has also tightened vigilance to such threats."