The Korea Herald


[Editorial] Are we ready?

Military cybersecurity exposes critical loopholes

By Korea Herald

Published : Oct. 12, 2017 - 17:29

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The shocking revelation that North Korea hacked war plans prepared by South Korea and the US calls for outside investigation by institutions such as the National Assembly or the state audit agency.

That is necessary because the issue poses a grave threat to national security and because -- as in the case of many other wrongdoings it committed -- the military insists that it cannot disclose details of the leak, as military secrets are involved and the case is still under its own investigation.
It is simply outrageous that the military -- which failed to protect top secret information, including the latest war plans against North Korea -- is citing the protection of military secrets to resist scrutiny.

This is not the first time that the military’s cybersecurity system has exposed loopholes, but what Rep. Rhee Cheol-hee of the Democratic Party revealed is more scary than shocking.

Rhee said in a statement that hackers believed to be North Koreans broke into the Defense Integrated Data Center in September last year to steal 235 gigabytes of classified military files.

The leaked information included Operational Plans 5015, the South Korea-US joint war plans in case of an invasion by North Korea. The plan includes the “decapitation strike” operation that aims to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as well as the maneuvers of South Korean and US forces to take on the North Korean military.

In other words, Kim now has information on South Korea-US war plans and even the scheme to take his life.

Rep. Rhee said that the stolen files include those on OPLAN 3100, the allies’ operational plan against the North’s infiltration or localized attacks on the South. Other classified information that was taken include contingency maneuvers of the South Korean special warfare forces and the security system for military installations and key state facilities like power plants.

One does not need to be a military expert to know how crucial such information is in fighting and prevailing over a hostile military force in the event of a war.

More troubling is that even the military does not know exactly what information has been taken. Rep. Rhee said that 182 gigabytes of all the stolen data -- about 77 percent of the total -- was yet to be identified.

It is needless to say that the military should find out what has been stolen, overhaul its cybersecurity system and personnel, and more importantly, draw up new war plans on the assumption that Kim and his generals have read the old version.

The latest case involving the North’s hacking provocation testifies to the fact that the cyberwarfare capability of the communist regime is as menacing as its nuclear and missile prowess that now threatens to launch a nuclear strike against the US mainland.

South Korea had already fallen victim to the North’s cyber infiltration into computer systems at government offices, media outlets and financial firms.

North Korean hackers, some of whom are believed to be active in China and other overseas stations, also broke into Sony’s Hollywood operation system in 2014 in retaliation for its production of a film about its young dictator.

The uncomfortable truth is that our military cybersecurity team is no match for the North’s cyberwarfare personnel, as the latest case shows.

South Korea’s Cyber Command should have been ready to repel the cyberattacks, but instead, it seems to have been busy conducting an illegal cyber operations against the general public to support the past conservative governments.

On Wednesday, one day after Rep. Rhee disclosed the North Korean hacking, state prosecutors armed with search and seizure warrants raided the homes of two former chiefs of the Cyber Command on suspicions that they oversaw the command agents’ illegal online political activities. This is the sad reality facing what otherwise should have been the vanguard of national cybersecurity.