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Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

As read by the author

North Korea? A cyber-terror threat?

As read by the author Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Wednesday, 21 May 2003

YOU GOTTA LOVE the media when they get bored. They'll print some of the most inane tripe on a slow news day. For example, a recent Reuters newswire promotes North Korea as an ominous cyber-warmonger:

North Korea is training around 100 computer hackers each year to boost its cyber-warfare capabilities, pushing the South to fortify its own computer security, [said] Song Young-keun, commanding general of Seoul's Defense Security Command... Tensions have risen on the divided peninsula since the North Korean nuclear crisis erupted in October 2002, when Washington said North Korea had admitted to a covert program to enrich uranium for nuclear arms... The two Koreas remain technically at war, their 1950-53 conflict ending inconclusively in an armed truce rather than a peace treaty.
"Com­pu­ters are a rarity among North Korea's hunger-stricken 22 mil­lion popu­la­tion. Visi­tors say the Inter­net is avail­able only at a few hotels in the capi­tal, Pyong­yang. Yet, 'North Korea is re­in­forcing its cyber terror capa­bil­ities...' "
North Korea? A cyber-terror threat? I don't know if General Song ever looked at a nighttime photo of the Korean peninsula, but — let's just say "North Korea doesn't use much electricity." (Seriously: take a peek at the photo. You'll love it.) On the other hand, an Associated Press newswire reported the same story with a healthy dose of skepticism:
North Korea, an impoverished communist country suspected of building nuclear weapons, has developed another weapon: cyber terrorism, [said] Maj. Gen. Song Young-geun... Computers are a rarity among North Korea's hunger-stricken 22 million population. Visitors say the Internet is available only at a few hotels in the capital, Pyongyang. Yet, "North Korea is reinforcing its cyber terror capabilities," Song said at a seminar on information protection in Seoul. Song did not produce evidence to back his claim.
North Korea? A cyber-terror threat? Man, I smell a Pas-de-Calais deception here — and a gullible South Korean general fell for it. So did a gullible Reuters reporter. Kudos to the unidentified skeptical AP reporter!
[Editor's note: The link to CNN points to a British version of the Reuters newswire. This column quotes an American version.]