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posted by janrinok on Saturday December 06 2014, @08:59AM   Printer-friendly
from the free-basement-with-pizza dept.

Ju-Min Park and James Pearson report at Reuters that despite its poverty and isolation, North Korea has poured resources into a sophisticated cyber-warfare cell called Bureau 121, staffed by some of the most talented, and rewarded, people in North Korea, handpicked and trained from as young as 17. "They are hand-picked," says Kim Heung-kwang, a former computer science professor in North Korea who defected to the South in 2004. "It is a great honor for them. It is a white-collar job there and people have fantasies about it." The hackers in Bureau 121 were among the 100 students who graduate from the University of Automation each year after five years of study. Over 2,500 apply for places at the university, which has a campus in Pyongyang, behind barbed wire.

According to Jang Se-yul, who studied with them at North Korea's military college for computer science, Bureau 121 unit comprises about 1,800 cyber-warriors, and is considered the elite of the military. North Korea's ‘cyber-warriors’ are very honored in the country. As well as their salaries which are far above the country’s average, they are often gifted with good food, luxuries and even apartments. According to John Griasafi, this kind of treatment could be expected for those working in the elite Bureau. “You’d have to be pretty special and well trusted to even be allowed on email in North Korea so I have no doubt that they are treated well too.”

Pyongyang has active cyber-warfare capabilities, military and software security experts have said. In 2013 tens of thousands of computers were made to malfunction, disrupting work at banks and television broadcasters in South Korea. "For them, the strongest weapon is cyber. In North Korea, it’s called the Secret War," says Jang.

 
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 06 2014, @09:25AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 06 2014, @09:25AM (#123164)

    Thirty years ago in America, you had to be hand-picked to work on a research project that gave you Internet access.

    You know, those of who are older than 30 can actually remember a time when the Internet was not available to everyone, computer science was a respected field of study, IT was a white-collar job, and kids had fantasies about hacking. But thanks for the sensationalist article full of scaremongering.

  • (Score: 2) by ticho on Saturday December 06 2014, @09:58AM

    by ticho (89) on Saturday December 06 2014, @09:58AM (#123169) Homepage Journal

    Except that in USA, kids dreamed about doing the "hacking", while people in NK dream about the social status and abundance of food that comes with the job, and probably couldn't give a rat's ass about the "hacking" itself. So, pretty much not like America.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 06 2014, @10:10AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 06 2014, @10:10AM (#123172)

      You're absolutely right. These days kids dream about the social status and abundance of food that comes with having a job, any job, because their chances of getting a job after graduation are slim in modern America. So, exactly like North Korea!

      At least European kids have a socialist safety net to fall back on when there are no jobs available for them. Not so in antisocial Terrorist America.

  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday December 06 2014, @02:44PM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 06 2014, @02:44PM (#123207) Journal

    Thirty years ago in America, you had to be hand-picked to work on a research project that gave you Internet access.

    Aside from the fact that this is simply wrong (for example, I had internet access a few years later in 1987 just by being a generic incoming college student and colleges have had access since the mid 70s), it is a vastly different situation. The internet of that time had almost no value compared to now. There were also several competing networks in the process of being created (for example, FidoNet, AOL, Compuserve).

    • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Saturday December 06 2014, @08:06PM

      by kaszz (4211) on Saturday December 06 2014, @08:06PM (#123282) Journal

      It had immense value if you were into computing in general. Of course all the facebook level social drama didn't have the magnitude that it has archived now. It required grades to get into college, interest to even try to connect, and then technical knowhow to get it to work. FidoNet was slow and certiainly lacked the realtime capability which made Usenet look like heaven, AOL and Compuserve was limited to what they defined as worthy like Facebook and Apple corporate censorship presently. Besides those dial-in things were more like closed of world.

      So no OMG!!.. but certainly a shit-yeah for internet access pre-eternal-september. Being able to use operating system integrated packet networking without insane telecom billing bullshit certainly made things easier. Packet oriented rather than single pipe to terminal like end node made handling multiple node handling a breeze.