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N. Korea commands 3,000-strong cyber warfare unit: defector

All Headlines 11:53 June 01, 2011

SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has expanded its cyber warfare unit to staff 3,000 people and continues to train prodigies to become professional hackers, a defector said Wednesday, after South Korea recently accused the North of crippling the online services of one of its banks.

Intelligence officials in Seoul believe the North runs a 1,000-strong cyber warfare unit under the command of the country's top intelligence agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau. Prosecutors here blamed the bureau last month for launching a cyber attack on the computer system of the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, or Nonghyup, in April.

"North Korea last year raised the status of its cyber warfare unit under the Reconnaissance General Bureau and increased the number of troops in the unit from 500 to about 3,000," said Kim Heung-kwang, according to a transcript of his speech at a cyber terrorism seminar in Seoul.

"North Korea is putting all efforts into cyber warfare after recognizing that its investments in maintaining and building cyber military strength fall short of what goes into its regular armed forces," said Kim, who heads a defectors' group called North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity.

He also said the North Korean regime is luring gifted young people from all parts of the country to receive training in Pyongyang as professional hackers.

"These prodigies are provided with the best environment, and if they graduate with top grades, their parents in the provinces are given the opportunity to live in Pyongyang," Kim said. "After studying at local universities, these students are given the special privilege of continuing their studies abroad."

Once they return, most of the students are assigned to work for special hacking units, he added.

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