Well, the situation on the Korean peninsula just got a lot more dicey with the revelation that North Korean hackers stole hundreds of gigabytes of war plans from South Korean defense databases. The United States and South Korean governments have not even identified the totality of what information was stolen, making the situation even worse.
Key war plans held by the defense ministry were accessed and stolen last year according to local media reports. The hackers used traditional North Korean methods, and were able to steal thousands of highly classified military documents in September 2016.
According to The Daily Caller, 80% of the documents have yet to be identified. Minjoo Party Rep. Rhee Cheol-hee stated that “The Ministry of National Defense has yet to find out about the content of 182 gigabytes of the total (stolen) data.”
Classified war plans were among the stolen documents, specifically OPLAN 5015 and OPLAN 3100, even though the South Korean defense ministry initially claimed that nothing important was leaked.
OPLAN 5015 is the most recent joint U.S.-South Korean plan for a war with North Korea. While the exact details for OPLAN 5015 are classified, the plan is believed to consolidate previous contingency plans, specifically OPLAN 5029 (internal instability in North Korea), OPLAN 5027 (preparations for an all-out war), and a peacetime plan involving localized provocations from North Korea. OPLAN 5015 is suspected to call for preemptive strikes on the North’s essential military facilities and weapons, and possibly North Korean leadership in the event of a conflict.
OPLAN 3100 is Seoul’s plan for localized provocations, such as a special forces invasion. There are also contingency plans for Special Warfare Command in the event of a major North Korean provocation.
The hacking occurred in September of 2016, when Barack Obama was still President. Local newspaper Chosun Ilbo noted back in April that the incident was downplayed by the government.
Defense Minister Han Min-koo and other military officials last year downplayed the seriousness of the hacking attack, saying that only a small number of sensitive military secrets leaked out.
That was not the case, though; this was a serious breach. The documents are so highly classified that lawmakers in both the South Korean ruling and opposition parties protested over a superficial briefing defense officials had on the plans when they were introduced in 2015.
Newsweek further notes that the documents contain information about very sensitive military installations, power plants, and joint military drills.
North Korea has obviously denied the hacking attack, but it’s no secret that the rogue regime has a trained force of cyber-espionage warriors, possibly 7,000 or more of them, who work vigorously to undermine their Western enemies.
In 2014, a North Korean defector spoke of his experience at the country’s military college for computer science where top students are hand-picked to join the cyber warfare cell. Cyber security experts also believe Pyongyang hackers may have been behind the global “WannaCry” ransomware global cyber attack in May.
Many of the regime’s hackers likely obtained training in China, the most hacking-happy nation in the world as of now. North Korean hackers were even able to obtain documents detailing the plans for F-15 fighter jet wings with their hacking skills.
Clearly the North Koreans are ramping up their cyber operations, and both the American and South Korean governments need to up their cybersecurity measures accordingly.