America’s advanced digital arsenal would be little help in a conflict against North Korea because the regime is so digitally disconnected, cyber warfare experts tell Cory. Obvious targets like power grids are mostly protected from widespread tampering thanks to the country’s lack of technological prowess.
“If you were looking at the countries in the world that are best at cyber defense, North Korea would be at or near the top of the list,” said Peter Singer, the author of several books on modern warfare techniques. “But not because of any kind of great talent. But for the simple fact that they’re not all that wired.”
The dearth of digital options is important as the war of words escalates between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Cyberattacks on the regime’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs has been reported both as part of the administration’s military package for the East Asian country and as one way to avoid an all-out conflict. But, said Jenny Jun, co-author of a Center for Strategic and International Studies study on North Korea’s digital programs, “If we are at a point where we need to consider destroying North Korea’s dams and power plants … then it’s much easier to just drop a bomb.”
That won’t stop the U.S. from trying, though. In a military confrontation with North Korea, digital warfare specialists predict the U.S. would likely train its cyber weapons on military communications or freeze the bitcoins helping fund the regime. America’s digital disruptors could even co-opt the country’s limited cellular and internet network, depriving Pyongyang of a key tool it uses to spread propaganda and keep tabs on its citizens. “All military targets that can be penetrated electronically, we will penetrate or attempt to penetrate,” said Joel Brenner, a former head of U.S. counterintelligence from 2006 to 2009. “Count on it.” Pros can read the full story here.
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