The Washington Post published an excellent article, “Suspected North Korean cyberattack on a bank raises fears for S. Korea, allies” detailing a significant cyber attack on a major South Korean bank that occurred last April. The consensus of experts is that the attack was carried out by North Korea, running through a server in China.
This was more than the Denial of Service attacks that have been executed in the past. It was a sophisticated virus attack that took down hundreds of servers at the bank, shut it down for days, and then corrupted a huge amount of financial data.
South Korea is one of the most “wired” nations on Earth, with the highest rate of high-speed broadband connectivity per capita anywhere. Their society runs on the Internet. It is a huge part of the extraordinary development one finds there, but again, is a huge vulnerability as well.
My point here is not to beat up any particular nation but to further emphasize the point that cyber and economic means are edging toward the place where they truly are weapons of mass destruction. Even if they do not take out a physical target, is not the destruction of data, particularly financial data, destruction? This is way beyond being “only” a weapon of mass disruption.
We will see more and more of this. Poor and disconnected nations like North Korea, and terrorist groups who have apocalyptic ideologies, have nothing to lose by executing these sorts of attacks. They are not tied to the global economy anyway. They also have no issues with inflicting suffering on innocent civilians. That combined with the very low cost of entry into this field makes it tantalizingly attractive as a method of asymmetric warfare.
It is coming folks; we had better get more effectively prepared, and we’d better do it now.