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Facts and Findings

Cyber Actors: North Korea

by Lukas Joselewitsch

How cyber operations support the state system

In recent years, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has increasingly instrumentalized cyber and increasingly instrumentalized the cyber and information space to implement its state policy agenda and is exploiting the entire spectrum of possible operational targets: sabotage and disruption, signaling, political espionage, economic espionage, foreign currency procurement and propaganda.

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So far, political espionage has primarily been directed against South Korean civil and public institutions as well as international organizations and foreign individuals. The aim of the operations is to obtain information relevant to strategic and security policy.
With regard to economically motivated espionage activities, the DPRK carries out operations to generate information on economically relevant sectors. In the past, the main target was international arms companies with the aim of gaining technical information for the development of modern weapons systems, including nuclear weapons. It is to be expected that the DPRK will carry out more attacks against satellite technology companies in the future in order to underpin recent efforts to produce space-based weapons and reconnaissance systems.

Economic espionage is similar to political espionage in its calculations and is geared towards the strategic goals of the state leadership. The country is currently focusing on non-governmental cryptocurrency platforms, which are proving to be a profitable target. The platforms often have low security standards and attract less public attention than a bank in the event of a compromise. 

For the Federal Republic of Germany, the DPRK's activities in cyberspace have not yet posed a particular threat particular threat so far. However, even the slightest erosion of the currently tense diplomatic relations between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, South Korea and the USA could have devastating consequences for the global security situation.


Read the entire Facts & Findings Arguments "Cyber-Actors: Nordkorea – wie Cyberoperationen das staatliche System stützen" here as a PDF. Please note, to date the analysis is only available in German.


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About this series

The series informs in a concentrated form about important positions of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung on current topics. The individual issues present key findings and recommendations, offer brief analyses, explain the Foundation's further plans and name KAS contact persons.


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