SEOUL — North Korea reportedly has trained some 500 computer hackers to undertake electronic attacks on the United States and South Korea, according to the South Korean Ministry of National Defense.
In a report to the National Assembly’s committee on national defense, the ministry said its intelligence indicated the North Korean hackers’ skills rivaled those of any elsewhere in the world.
The hackers, trained by the North Korean military, apparently went through a five-year university program that sought to familiarize them with American, South Korean and Japanese computer systems, particularly those used by those nations’ militaries.
“North Korea’s intelligence warfare capability is estimated to have reached the level of advanced countries,” the report read.
Earlier this year, leaked South Korean intelligence reports said hackers broke into more than 200 government computers at 10 sensitive agencies — including the defense ministry, National Assembly and an atomic research institute — and stole passwords and other information.
The reports linked the attacks to China, but they could not determine whether the hackers were physically based there or had used a router there as the base for their attacks.
U.S. officials at the time said no U.S. military systems had been hacked during the attacks. Later this month, U.S. officials will host a previously scheduled network operations conference with a special emphasis on defending against such computer attacks.
South Korean systems, the National Assembly committee report said, are considered vulnerable because the country has the world’s highest use of broadband services with relatively low levels of Internet security.