Dispelling the NK BS: Bureau 121 – NK Does Have An Elite Hacking Capacity
Hi once again ATS.
As this very important and paradigm shifting story – the tale of a movie studio, a Dictatorship, and a stoner flick – unfolds before us, one of the
major talking points, from the very beginning has been the insistance that North Korea is technologically backwards, behind the curve, and utterly
incapable of using Cyberwarfare as a weapon. I wish to address this misconception.
As a preface I do want to state that I am not at all convinced that the attacks upon the US came from North Korea, neither am I yet convinced that
North Korea was not a pawn nor player in the event. What I do wish to do is to set the record straight regarding the computing skills of NK.
It is easy to understand why public perception would paint North Korea as a technilogically inferior country. After all, starvation and poverty are
rampant and the stories told by defectors include having to resort to cannibalism to survive and of a lifestyle that represents a daily fight simply
to stay alive.
But these are stories of those not fortunate enough to live in Pyongyang. While rural life in NK is abysmal, life in Pyongyang is equal to life in any
of the worlds wealthiest nations or cities. Some reports suggest that 25 to 40% of North Koreas GDP goes into military spending – propping up a small
sector of their society into the realms of extreme wealth.
Here is some testimony from a defector named Jang Se-yul who was once part of the program
Before defecting to South Korea in 2007, Jang went to Mirim University, the country’s top engineering college, which is now called the
University of Automation. Although he wasn’t a hacker — his major was War Game Strategy, focused on cyber warfare simulations — Jang took
classes with the hackers that are now in Bureau 121. After graduation, Jang worked at North Korea’s General Bureau of Reconnaissance, the
intelligence agency that Bureau 121 is a part of. He says he still keeps in touch with some of those hackers.
How they’re trained: Mirim University produces most of the hackers that get placed in Bureau 121. It’s a highly competitive program, with each
class accepting only about 100 students out of 5,000 applicants. They take six 90-minute classes every day, learning different coding languages and
operating systems, from C to Linux. Jang says a lot of time was spent dissecting Microsoft programs, like the Windows operating system, and how to
attack the overall computer IT systems of enemy countries like the US or South Korea.
But the core principle is to develop its own hacking programs and computer viruses without having to rely on programs already built in the outside
world. Jang says he believes North Korean hackers are as good as the top programmers at Google or CIA, if not already better. “Especially in terms
of coding, I’m confident they’re better because they’ve invested in it for so long,” he says.
Their living conditions are much better than most North Koreans’: they receive high salaries, a free apartment over 2,000 sq ft in downtown Pyongyang,
and their family can move to Pyongyang as well, which is a big privilege. They’re among the top 1% who are happy with their lives in North Korea. In
fact, with free access to the internet, these hackers are all aware of what’s going on in the outside world and how reclusive their country is —
but they still won’t leave their country. “No matter how hard you try to convince them, they won’t leave — even if you offered them a job at
the Blue House (the official residence of the South Korean president),” Jang says.
KCNA The ultimate goal: North Korea realizes they have no chance fighting their enemies in conventional warfare. But in cyber space, they can create
chaos with relatively few resources. It’s why the North Korean government has spent so much effort in this area since the 1980s. They call it the
“Secret War.” Jang says the ultimate goal is to attack the central IT infrastructure of enemy countries, primarily the government, and steal as
much information as possible while also causing social pandemonium.
I’ve used a bit more of the article than I should have but, IMO this is very important information to get into the dialogue. Also, anyone inclined can
simply use their search engine of preference to find out a bit more – though the information is somewhat limited.
Another article, already linked above, sums it up: “For them, the strongest weapon is cyber. In North Korea, it’s called the Secret War,”
So, while we were all watching missle after missle fail, and listening to endless threats about nuking this or nuking that – NK wasn’t as inept as
many thought. They were actually very wisely picking and choosing their field of battle and made sure that they are ahead of the curve in that
As I spend the better part of my waking life, lately, dissecting these events and tying together all of the lose strings, I felt it wise to post this
thread as part of it all. Too many times have I read posts declaring that NK is running ancient computers and that their ID of high tech is forty year
old fax machines. NK is the child of China, the worlds leader in electronics – so it is no surprise at all that Kim Jung Un would have inherited the
benefits of that relationship when he came to power – plans put into place by his father that are finally coming into the light of day.
We let our top 1% get fat on the wealth of the labor of others and laugh. NK teaches their top 1% to hack.
I hope this clears up some misconceptions.