2018 has been the year of diplomacy for North Korea’s totalitarian government, with Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un meeting with the leaders of South Korea, China and the United States, in addition to reportedly planning a visit to Russia. But behind this charm offensive, the regime in Pyongyang is continuing to develop its cyber warfare capabilities and conduct espionage campaigns against a wide range of targets. In an interview with WPR, Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, explains the motives and methods behind North Korea’s malign cyber activities and how the private sector is adapting to this threat.
World Politics Review: How do North Korea’s cyber capabilities compare to those of major powers like the U.S., China and Russia, and how did it become such a capable actor in cyberspace?
Adam Meyers: North Korea has for many years invested heavily in its offensive and defensive cyber programs. Cyber operators there reportedly begin training in their teens, attending prominent secondary schools before entering university programs specializing in cybersecurity. Operators and their families reportedly live a privileged life in the capital, Pyongyang. Having been developed for the better part of the past two decades, North Korean capabilities are now very mature, even when compared with other major players in the offensive cyber operations space. North Korean operators leverage deep knowledge of their targets to achieve their objectives, which include espionage, destructive and disruptive attacks, and revenue generation.