It happened again — a North Korean missile launch exploded in the air, over land, just a few minutes after launching on Friday.
While North Korea can still learn a lot from a failed missile test and use those lessons to advance their program, they have failed to demonstrate capability with missile types the US perfected in the 1970s — and cyber espionage may be to blame.
Asked about North Korea’s unsuccessful missile test by CBS’ John Dickerson on “Face the Nation” on Sunday, President Donald Trump refused to address whether or not the US had anything to do with the rogue nation’s missile failures.
“I’d rather not discuss it. But perhaps they’re just not very good missiles,” said Trump. Pressed further on possible US sabotage of North Korea’s missiles, Trump did not deny it. “I just don’t want to discuss it.”
In the past, US leaders have forcefully denied cyber attacks on other countries, but Trump only reiterated his preference for not telegraphing his intentions or plans in military ventures.
Indeed North Korea lacks the missile manufacturing infrastructure of a world power like Russia or the US, but a recent New York Times report uncovered a secret operation to derail North Korea’s nuclear-missile program that has been raging for three years.
Essentially, the report attributes North Korea’s high rate of failure with Russian-designed missiles to US meddling in the country’s missile software and networks.
But to those in the know, the campaign against North Korea came as no surprise. Dr. Ken Geers, a cybersecurity expert for Comodo with experience in the NSA, told Business Insider that cyberoperations like the one against North Korea were actually the norm.
While the fact that the US hacked another country’s missile program may be shocking to some, “within military intelligence spaces this is what they do,” Geers said. “If you think that war is possible with a given state, you’re going to be trying to prepare the battle space for conflict. In the internet age, that means hacking.”
North Korea’s internal networks are fiercely insulated and not connect to the larger internet, however, which poses a challenge for hackers in the US, but Geers said it’s “absolutely not the case” that computers need to connect to the internet to be hacked.
Furthermore, Geers said, because of the limited number of servers and access points to North Korea’s very restricted internet, “If it ever came to cyberwar between the US and North Korea, it would be an overwhelming victory for the West.”
“North Korea can do a Sony attack or attack the White House, but that’s cause that’s the nature of cyberspace,” Geers said. “But if war came, you’d see Cyber Command wipe out most other countries’ pretty quickly.”