The South Korean government has approved plans to develop a Stuxnet-like virus to disrupt Pyongyang’s missile and atomic capabilities, according to local reports.
The plans are part of a new defence ministry strategy designed to enhance Seoul’s offensive capabilities, in a bid to counter a North Korea which has been increasingly aggressive online of late.
First up, the ministry aims in May to install a "Cyber Defence Department" which will oversee all operations.
"The new department will oversee the defensive cyber-warfare missions when major networks are hit by hacking attacks, while carrying out orders of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs," an anonymous ministry official told Yonhap.
The second phase of the plan involves the development of “tools” to be used as part of “comprehensive cyber-warfare missions” aimed at disrupting key weapons and atomic facilities north of the border. It’s an open secret that Pyongyang is actively attempting to create nuclear weapons and as Stuxnet helped someone to disrupt similar efforts in Iran, the lure of code as a weapon has obvious appeal.
South Korea also plans to beef up its “psychological warfare” capabilities aimed at countering Pyongyang’s online propaganda and smear tactics.
However, the defence ministry has been criticised in the past after operatives were accused of posting overtly political content during the presidential election of 2012.
Responding to these concerns, the ministry is apparently planning to set up a committee to review any such operations prior to their approval as well as a whistleblower initiative to allow operatives to report any malpractice.
Seoul has a right to be paranoid about what’s going on over the border. Defence minister Kim Kwan-jin said last year that Pyongyang now has as many as 3,000 highly trained hackers tasked with stealing military secrets and disrupting systems.
It’s also believed that major attacks on South Korean systems last year by the Kim Jong-un regime caused 800bn won’s (£470m) worth of damage. ®