Alleged US cyber attack on N Korea’s nuclear weapons fails

US allegedly attacks on North Korean nuclear weapons programme through version of Stuxnet computer virus, but attempt fails to reach at desired results

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The United States was allegedly said to have attempted to launch a cyber attack against North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme five years ago, but it ultimately failed to succeed, according to intelligence people familiar with the covert intelligence campaign.

The alleged cyber attack on North Korea was committed five years ago with the now-famous Stuxnet computer virus that was also used to sabotage Iran's nuclear programme in 2009 and 2010.

The cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear sites destroyed a thousand or more centrifuges which were enriching uranium are also believed to have been organised by a joint effort of the US and Israel.

According to one US intelligence source, Stuxnet software developers had produced a computer virus that would be activated when it comprehended Korean-language settings on an infected machine.

But another high-ranking US intelligence officer worked in the same cyber attack campaign spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said that the US agents could succeed in accessing Nuclear Korea’s equipments that functioned the nuclear weapons.

The US intelligent move that envisaged by the National Security Agency (NSA) had aimed to crumble Pyongyang’s nuclear facilities, but stumbled over North Korea’s overwhelmingly increased security walls and secrecy of its communications systems, another US intelligence source, who had heard about the failed cyber attack without details, has claimed.

North Korea is known for its strictly isolated communication systems and that Internet usage is available only to a tiny elite close to the circle and its leader Kim Jong-un with a permission of security authorities.

Its internet connection with the world is provided with a conduit via China, Pyongyang’s time-tested cordial partner since the country’s division with the South.

China had transferred nuclear technologies to North Korea when the country was divided after the Korean War of 1950-52 and aligned itself with the Soviet-Chinese communist bloc during the Cold War era.

NSA spokesperson has declined to comment on confirmation of the cyber attack on North Korea as the agency had previously used its right to be silent over the Stuxnet cyber operation targeted Iran.

North Korea and Iran now are the countries which were proven to have targeted by the NSA cyber attacks despite the US is believed to have launched many espionage campaigns through software designed equipments.

US President Barack Obama had authorised a new set of sanctions on North Korea last year when a cyber attack targeted Sony Pictures Entertainment over the release of the movie “The Interview,” which tells the story of an assassination attempt on Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

The US officials stated that they believe the hackers are supported by the North Korean government.

The US has been imposing sanctions on North Korea for more than 50 years for various reasons, including the country’s nuclear weapons programme.

The US has long been worrying over North Korea’s nuclear programme and raised its concerns as its regional allies Japan and South Korea were alarmed by Pyongyang’s incremental nuclear activities since the six-party nuclear talks have been suspended.

The six-member diplomatic table had stalled on Pyongyang’s nuclear programme in early 2009 and also interrupted with the death of Kim Jong-il, the father of current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Japan, South Korea and the US are the members of the negotiation table with North Korea together with China and Russia which have been backing so far North Korea’s international position.

The envoys from those respective countries met on Wednesday in Seoul and agreed on stepping up pressure over North Korea’s long-disputed nuclear programme which has been perceived as a major threat by the respective countries.

Pyongyang is one of the nine nuclear-armed nations and among the four countries which have never signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Some experts indicate that the resembled cyber operations targeting Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programme might enhance security cooperation and military technologies between Tehran and Pyongyang since both countries use the same system with P-2 centrifuges.

The aforementioned P-2 centrifuges were created by Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, who is regarded as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile an exiled Iranian opposition group claimed on Thursday that a North Korean nuclear envoy consisting of nuclear scientists and missile experts had visited Tehran where they have surveyed a military site.

The dissident National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) group had previously exposed Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz nuclear plant and a heavy water facility at Arak nuclear site in 2002.  

The Paris-based NCRI group allegedly said that a seven-person North Korean Defence Ministry envoy had been to Iran during the last week of April.

Iran and the world powers, dubbed P5+ 1 countries, including the UK, the US, France, Germany, Russia and China have been negotiating a final agreement in Iran’s long-standing nuclear programme and agreed on a preliminary deal on April 2 ahead of a June 30 final deadline.

Many experts and analysts believe that North Korea has remarkably advanced its nuclear capabilities since the six-party talks were broken.  

South Korean authorities remarked the upcoming military threat as the tension gradually soars with the North.  

Seoul intended to spend about 8 billion dollars over five years in order to cope with the North Korea’s missile threats starting from 2016 onwards.

North Korea’s nuclear programme and security challenges posed in the region will be discussed next month when the South Korean President Park Geun-hye meets with US President Obama in Washington.

TRTWorld and agencies