According to an exclusive report by Reuters, The US was attempting without success to interfere with the nuclear programme of Pyongyang, in the same way it has done with Iran … SCADA systems controlling centrifuges. The US hackers tried to compromise the systems by using a variant of the Stuxnet virus, this variant was designed specifically to infect systems at Korean nuclear plants.
The Reuters revealed that the NSA failed to spread Stuxnet into North Korea’s nuclear plants because they were totally isolated from the rest of the world.
“The United States tried to deploy a version of the Stuxnet computer virus to attack North Korea’s nuclear weapons program five years ago but ultimately failed, according to people familiar with the covert campaign. The operation began in tandem with the now-famous Stuxnet attack that sabotaged Iran’s nuclear program in 2009 and 2010 by destroying a thousand or more centrifuges that were enriching uranium. Reuters and others have reported that the Iran attack was a joint effort by U.S. and Israeli forces.” states the Reuters.
The Reuters cites an unnamed US official as confirming that the same team that designed Stuxnet also developed similar malware that was able to activate itself only when it encountered Korean computers.
The US intelligence was aware that North Korea used centrifuges obtained from the Pakistani scientist, A.Q. Khan, the same centrifuges that were used by Iranian scientists at the nuclear plant if Natanz. It is likely that both Korea and Iran were using the same SCADA systems produced by Siemens controlled by applications running on Windows OS.
If these reports are confirmed, they would be enough to make small changes to Stuxnet effective against systems of North Korea.
The principal reason for the failure of the US cyber attack resides in the difficulty to reach the Korean networks.
“The official said the National Security Agency-led campaign was stymied by North Korea’s utter secrecy, as well as the extreme isolation of its communications systems. A third source, also previously with U.S. intelligence, said he had heard about the failed cyber attack but did not know details.
North Korea has some of the most isolated communications networks in the world. Just owning a computer requires police permission, and the open Internet is unknown except to a tiny elite. The country has one main conduit for Internet connections to the outside world, through China.” continues the Reuters.
Experts speculate that the unique possible target for US hackers were the computer systems at the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center, a plant located in the 9 north of Pyongyang.
The Reuters added that North Korea is believed to have other nuclear facilities today involved in the production of plutonium, a process that is different from the uranium enrichment and that doesn’t not require centrifuges.
(Security Affairs – North Korea ,Stuxnet Virus)
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