Despite its poverty and isolation, North Korea has poured resources into a sophisticated cyber-warfare cell called Bureau 121, defectors from the secretive state said as Pyongyang came under the microscope for a crippling hack into computers at Sony Pictures Entertainment.
A North Korean diplomat has denied Pyongyang was behind the attack that was launched last month but a U.S. national security source said it was a suspect.
Defectors from the North have said Bureau 121, staffed by some of the most talented computer experts in the insular state, is part of the General Bureau of Reconnaissance, an elite spy agency run by the military. They have said it is involved in state-sponsored hacking, used by the Pyongyang government to spy on or sabotage its enemies.
Pyongyang has active cyber-warfare capabilities, military and software security experts have said. Much of it is targeted at the South, technically still in a state of war with North Korea. But Pyongyang has made no secret of its hatred of the United States, which was on the South’s side in the 1950-53 Korean War.
Military hackers are among the most talented, and rewarded, people in North Korea, handpicked and trained from as young as 17, said Jang Se-yul, who studied with them at North Korea’s military college for computer science, or the University of Automation, before defecting to the South six years ago.
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