The Cyberforce Awakens


With mutual assured destruction making nuclear warfare an unrealistic option, more nation states are fighting battles online rather than on physical battlefields and with malware replacing projectile weapons. 

Unlike physical invasions, cyberattacks are generally difficult to attribute to a particular actor. However, the White House recently named North Korea as the culprit behind the WannaCry ransomware attack last May, which affected more than 300,000 computers in more than 150 nations. A ransomware is a type of malware that blocks access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid using cryptocurrency. The WannaCry attack targeted banks, hospitals, and commercial businesses.

This isn’t the first time that North Korea has been blamed for a cyberattack. North Korea allegedly launched a cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. in 2014 over the release of The Interview, a fictional satirical comedy film about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. U.S. officials under then-President Barack Obama blamed North Korea for the 2014 cyberattack that destroyed Sony’s company data and caused the movie studio to delay the release of the movie. 

As battlefields change, so do military units assigned to tackle new challenges. Special forces are dedicated military units trained to conduct unconventional military operations. With cybersecurity threats lurking everywhere, many nation states, including North Korea, have developed military cyber special forces. 

But details of what the isolated country's cyber special force looks like aren't easy to discern. North Korea’s cyber force is probably made up of about 1,700 state-sponsored hackers, backed by more than 5,000 support staff, the head of cyber policy at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think tank told Bloomberg Technology. Another Asian nation recently unveiled the existence of a cyberwarfare unit. A Vietnamese military official Dec. 25 told local media that Vietnam is deploying “Force 47”—a 10,000-strong unit, designed to fight “wrongful views” on the internet— according to a Bloomberg Technology report

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