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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

Why Is North Korea So Good at Cybercrime?

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Credit: France 24

Jason Bartlett is a research assistant in the Energy, Economics, and Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.


North Korea continues to baffle the world with its unprecedented success in sanctions evasions and cybercrime. As countries scramble to find consensus on cybersecurity protocols, North Korea has moved quickly to expand its cyber capabilities both at home and abroad.

The cyber market's size and lack of legal safeguards is a major attraction for North Korean financial crime as the country's cyber operations are low-risk and low-cost, with potentially high gains. According to Nam Jae-joon, former director of South Korea's National Intelligence Service, Kim Jong Un himself equated the importance of developing cyber capabilities to that of nuclear power, claiming that "cyber warfare, along with nuclear weapons and missiles, is an 'all-purpose sword' that guarantees our [North Korea's] military's capability to strike relentlessly." 

In May 2020, the North Korean regime allegedly recruited at least 100 of its highest performing graduates from top science and technology universities into its military to manage its tactical planning systems.

From The Diplomat
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