Cyberwar by North Korea?

Cyberwar by North Korea?
The war of words between US and North Korea has escalated in the recent weeks. However, can North Korea destabilize the United States through a cyberattack?

The war of words between US and North Korea has escalated in the recent weeks.

However, can North Korea destabilize the United States through a cyberattack?

Background

In August 2017, North Korea flew two missiles over Japan. The nation called it the “first step” in its Pacific operations. In September 2017, the nation has conducted its sixth nuclear test to date. It was the nation’s most powerful test yet. According to reports, the country detonated a hydrogen bomb that could be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile. The UN imposed another round of fresh sanctions in response. These sanctions would cripple the North Korean economy and would hit its exports in the energy and textile sector. The country stands to lose billions of dollars in revenue. In 2017, North Korea has launched 22 missiles in 15 tests.

However, the isolated nation has struck a defiant note. In August 2017, it threatened to hit the US territory of Guam. Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader has accused Trump of being a “mentally deranged US dotard.”

Meanwhile, Trump spoke about destroying North Korea during his address at the UN General Assembly. He also called Kim Jong Un a “madman” and “Rocket man” on his Twitter account.

Analysis

In the recent weeks, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho has become a prominent figure in the war of words between the two nations. He said that given the rhetoric from Trump, it was now “inevitable” that North Korea would fire its rockets at mainland United States. He also revealed that the isolated nation believes that US has already declared war. He said, “Last weekend Trump claimed that our leadership wouldn't be around much longer and declared a war on our country.”

North Korea has also released a video depicting the “destruction” of US warships and aircrafts.

President Trump said that any military action taken by the US will have devastating effects on North Korea. He said, “If we take that option it will be devastating -- devastating -- for North Korea," Trump said in the Rose Garden during a news conference. "It's called the military option.”

Trump also spoke about the North Korean leader noting that the latter was “acting very badly” adding, “He's saying things that should never ever be said." He also said, “I'll fix the mess. We'll see what happens.”

However, officials from the White House have publicly clarified that the nation is not at war with North Korea and nor had the President declared war through Twitter.

Experts have stated that nuclear war isn’t the only option open to North Korea to destabilize US. The nation has invested in capabilities to successfully carry out cyberattacks. In 2016, the country was allegedly able to breach the cyber command set up by South Korea. It has conducted similar cyberattacks on South Korean government agencies and organizations in the past. The nation has also been suspected of being behind the WannaCry attack that took place in 2017.

Assessment

Our assessment is that North Korea seems to be clearly following Iran’s strategy in trying to strike a deal with the international community by threatening to develop its nuclear arsenal. However, the real threat that it poses its ability to conduct cyber-attacks. North Korea was allegedly behind the cyber-attack on Sony Pictures (an American company) in 2014. America has proven itself to be vulnerable to data breaches. In the recent months, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had announced that it fell victim to a cyberbreach in 2016. Additionally, a data breach of US organization Equifax affected close to half of the US population. 

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