'The US is vulnerable in cyberspace': Trump administration looks to secure its communications channels ahead of US-North Korea summit

  • US intelligence officials are taking measures to shield their communications channels from North Korean hackers in light of President Donald Trump’s upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
  • US and North Korean officials would have to open communication channels to share information, leaving them susceptible to hacking attempts.
  • Cybersecurity experts are sounding the alarm over North Korea’s subversive activities in cyberspace.

US intelligence officials are being proactive in shielding their communication channels from North Korean hackers in light of President Donald Trump’s upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, sources said to CNN.

Prior to the Trump-Kim summit in June, US and North Korean officials would have to open communication channels to share information, leaving them susceptible to hacking attempts, CNN reported.

North Korea’s attempts to infiltrate companies and government entities have been well-documented, and a growing number of cybersecurity experts have raised concerns over its capabilities. Some analysts have detected “an attempt to collect intelligence from those individuals in preparation of the summit,” although the identities of the country or group responsible for the “traditional espionage” have been murky.

“What we are seeing is an increase in targeting of North Korean researchers and defectors, malicious emails pretending to come from the South Koreans,” Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder of US-based cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike, said to CNN.

Since President Barack Obama’s tenure, North Korea has been grouped with countries like Russia, Iran, and China, in the US’s list of cyberspace antagonists. One former US cybersecurity official warned that if North Korea decided to scrap its nuclear weapons program, it would only “invest in another” subversive program – like cyberspace-focused – which the official said was “one place the US is vulnerable.”

North Korea has already indicated it could dodge economic sanctions and raise capital, despite being slapped with sanctions from Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign in 2018.

“We expect the heavily sanctioned North Korea to use cyber operations to raise funds and to gather intelligence or launch attacks on South Korea and the United States,” US intelligence agencies said in a threat assessment in February.

Exact details on what Trump and Kim will discuss are unclear; however, the subject of denuclearization will likely take priority in the negotiations. Still, former intelligence officials insist that cybersecurity be an important talking point between the two leaders.

“North Korea’s cyber operations should be a part of the conversation,” Priscilla Moriuchi, a former National Security Agency division chief, said to CNN.

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