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2022 Annual DNI Cybersecurity Threat Assessment Findings for North Korea

Per the 2022 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, a publication from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) “We assess that North Korea continues to engage in illicit activities, including cyber theft and the export of UN-proscribed commodities to fund regime priorities, including Kim’s WMD program.”

Additional findings from the report include the following:

  • North Korea’s cyber program poses a sophisticated and agile espionage, cybercrime, and attack threat. Pyongyang is well positioned to conduct surprise cyber attacks given its stealth and history of bold action.
  • Pyongyang probably possesses the expertise to cause temporary, limited disruptions of some critical infrastructure networks and disrupt business networks in the United States.
  • Cyber actors linked to North Korea have conducted espionage efforts against a range of organizations, including media, academia, defense companies, and governments, in multiple countries.

Chris Inglis, former deputy director of the National Security Agency, when asked about North Korea’s cyber capabilities and achievements, noted how “Cyber is a tailor-made instrument of power for them [North Korea]. . . . There’s a low cost of entry, it’s largely asymmetrical, there’s some degree of anonymity and stealth in its use.  It can hold large swaths of nation-state infrastructure and private-sector infrastructure at risk. It’s a source of income. You could argue that they have one of the most successful cyber programs on the planet, not because it’s technically sophisticated, but because it has achieved all of their aims at very low cost.” 

And apparently, cyber has long been on the mind of Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s former dictator. In the Electronic Warfare Reference Guide published by the Korean People’s Army’s Military Publishing House in 2005, Kim stated, “If the Internet is like a gun, cyberattacks are like atomic bombs . . . modern war is decided by one’s conduct of electronic warfare,” thus “cyber units are my detached force and backup power.”

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