Being Honest: Don’t Know What to Make of This North Korea News

When you pay for analysis, you don’t like to hear your analysts saying things like “I have no clue”. But, that’s what I’m about to say.

There’s an article circulating suggesting that North Korea hacked and stole US/South Korean military plans for total war and assassination of Kim Jong Un from South Korean military computers.

Not to get too far out there…but, there’s at least two scenarios in my mind that could be at work.

First, if North Korea did indeed successfully hack and steal military secrets from South Korea, and it was allegedly US/South Korean allied war plans – then there is some incredible ineptitude at the counterintelligence level in SK. Knowing that those are among the most sensitive plans; and knowing that North Korea has a practice of using cyberattacks and hacking as a means of war; still allowing hackers to get their hands on it would be among the most catastrophic cybersecurity failures in modern military history.

If that was indeed the case, that explains why it took a year or more for South Korea and the US military to allow this news to be leaked to the press. I’m sure that countermeasures and new plans are in place to replace those that were stolen. Obviously.

Second, maybe they were supposed to get their hands on it. Maybe a front door was left open.  I hope that this was the case. There is historical precedence for this dating back to well before World War II.

In any event, Kim now knows that 1) there is hypothetically a real war plan and 2) that he is personally a target.  Thinking about it and rationalizing that one exists is far different than seeing your name in print attached to an attack strategy.  It should change his behavior (for better or worse – it’s a calculated risk).

When we start trying to figure out what it means that this happened under the Obama Administration (does that change anything at all?), we quickly get lost in what-if analysis. That’s why we don’t have a theory on what really happened.

It’s theoretically a big deal, or nothing at all.  There probably isn’t a lot of middle-ground with this event.

The biggest take-away is this:  North Korea was aware of it a year ago. If push were going to turn into a shove, it would have happened by now. What we don’t know is whether that hack delayed any potential action that was going to take place, or if it expedited the nuclear tests that Kim is now conducting – to build what he believes to be a counter-balance.  – KP

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