North Korea recruits hackers

North Korea is continuing to build up its army of cyberwarriors. The military is now recruiting new talent from schools and looking for prodigies that could be further trained to wage an electronic war against enemy states. In recent years North Korea has boosted its cyberwarrior army from some 500 soldiers to 3000, some of them deployed overseas.

North Korean defector Kim Heung-kwang who used to be a professor of computer science in the north reveals to Al Jazeera how the plan for a cyberarmy is coming along. “There is a pyramid-like prodigy recruiting system, where smart kids from all over the country – students who are good at math, coding and possess top analytical skills – are picked up” Kim said.

What seems surprising is that North Korea has hackers deployed all over the world, even Europe. According to Jang Se-yul who served as a hacker there are 600 hackers in two teams of 300 working abroad.

“They rotate once every year or two and those who return to North Korea continue on as researchers. It’s difficult to know the exact level of their technological skills, but according to a source, Kim Jong-il is investing hefty sums of money to prepare for cyberwarfare at any cost. He is investing nationally to nurture the best of the best. Whenever a new programme is released, he makes sure to buy it for the hackers to be able to study it.” Jang told.

North Korea is looking into modern ways of warfare because keeping up with western countries in an old-fashioned arms race is just too expensive. With the hundreds of millions they would have to spend on fighter jets or guns they can do much more damage online by training hackers. By giving them and their families a nice place to live in the capital and a change to work abroad while being part of the elite keeps most of them from defecting. To them there are no guarantees that the grass would be greener on the other side.

Read the full story at Al Jazeera

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