Having rattled his saber through a series of missile launches over the past few weeks, Kim Jong-Il has also indulged himself in quieter methods of rattling his enemies. Since late last week, North Korea has conducted cyber attacks against both South Korea and the US, according to officials in Seoul. The attacks took US government systems off line intermittently since July 4th and continue at least through last night:
A widespread and unusually resilient computer attack that began July 4 knocked out the Web sites of several government agencies, including some that are responsible for fighting cyber crime, The Associated Press has learned.
The Treasury Department, Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and Transportation Department Web sites were all down at varying points over the holiday weekend and into this week, according to officials inside and outside the government. Some of the sites were still experiencing problems Tuesday evening. Cyber attacks on South Korea government and private sites also may be linked, officials there said.
U.S. officials refused to publicly discuss details of the cyber attack. But Amy Kudwa, spokeswoman for the Homeland Security Department, said the agency’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued a notice to federal departments and other partner organizations about the problems and “advised them of steps to take to help mitigate against such attacks.”
South Korean officials showed less reticence about discussing the attacks:
South Korean intelligence officials believe North Korea or pro-Pyongyang forces in South Korea committed cyber attacks that paralyzed major South Korean and U.S. Web sites, a lawmaker’s aide said Wednesday.
The sites of 11 South Korean organizations including the presidential Blue House and the Defense Ministry went down or had access problems since late Tuesday, according to the state-run Korea Information Security Agency. Agency spokeswoman Ahn Jeong-eun said 11 U.S. sites suffered similar problems.
On Wednesday, the National Intelligence Service told a group of South Korean lawmakers it believes that North Korea or North Korean sympathizers in the South “were behind” the attacks, according to an aide to one of the lawmakers briefed on the information.
Kim wants to test his enemies to see how far he can go before provoking a reaction. In a sense, he’s like a toddler, pushing his limits further and further as his parents keep indulging his behavior. Thus far, he has suffered no consequences of any real import except to get a few scoldings from the UN. The US finally put some pain on the table by chasing their merchant ship Kang Nam around for a few days and forcing it to return home rather than complete delivery of suspected arms to Burma. Interestingly, this appears to have taken place immediately afterwards, perhaps as retaliation.
Today, Kim made a rare public appearance at an event honoring his father, and ABC News reports on his haggard appearance:
The memorial was the second major state event that the 67-year-old Kim has attended in person since reportedly suffering a stroke last summer. In early April, he presided over a parliamentary meeting where he was re-elected as leader.
Footage from broadcaster APTN showed Kim dressed in a khaki suit, looking more gaunt and with less hair than in April. As in April, he limped slightly while walking into the packed Pyongyang auditorium in what is believed to be an effect from the stroke.
Kim won’t live for much longer, and some believe he wants to show strength now to ensure the succession to his son. The cyber attack shows that Kim has put plenty of resources into that technology and that Pyongyang intends on pursuing hostilities on every possible battlefield in this generation of leadership and the next. The US had better show that we can prevail against it and make it more costly for the Kims than for us.