Should we fear a Stuxnet style attack from North Korea?

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Prof Kim Heung-Kwang, a defector from North Korea speaking to BBC Click, has warned that North Korea have the capability to destroy critical infrastructure and potentially kill in the process.

Prof Kim taught computer science at Hamheung Computer Technology University, before escaping and defecting from North Korea in 2004.

Prof Kim claims that the infamous ‘Bureau 121’ has had a swell in numbers and funding “with approximately 6000 people” and between 10% to 20% of the regime’s military budget.

He believes that a Stuxnet style attack “designed to destroy a city has been prepared by North Korea and is a feasible threat.”

Beyond the Sony Hack

The Sony Hack may now seem like a distant memory and may or may not have been perpetrated by NK, but should we (the western world in general) be taking this threat seriously?

Mark James, ESET security specialist, thinks so although isn’t sure how likely it is.

“I think we should always be concerned about this type of attack just the same way we are always concerned over any other type of warfare.

“Is it likely to happen? Who knows, yes of course they have people capable of such an attack but then I would imagine most big countries do.

“All we can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best, that’s why we have countermeasures and procedures in place to try and protect our most sensitive systems.

“We can’t protect 100% and always have to assume there’s someone or something bad trying to infiltrate those systems.”

Death by hacking?

In the past we’ve covered Smart Cities, Smart devices and other ways in which tech is increasingly becoming a part of our everyday lives, often without us even noticing.

Stuxnet, for those who don’t know, was used to disrupt and destroy Iranian nuclear centrifuges in order to slow Iran’s nuclear program. Were this kind of attack levelled at the public how would it be done?

That’s the scary thing: tech is becoming integrated in increasingly subtle ways with the average joe’s life, so how many potential attack vectors might a Stuxnet-style attack have?

“With so many systems controlled by computers we have to acknowledge that those systems can be compromised.

“As more and more of our infrastructure is controlled by computers we must accept the fact we are more vulnerable to hacking and cyber warfare.”

So word to the wise: having a smart kettle, cooker, or fridge is cool, but change those default passwords. This isn’t a cure-all but you’re only making it easier for any would be ‘hackers’ if you don’t. This applies to both home users and big industry, they are notoriously bad for weak passwords.

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Is this kind of attack something that concerns you?