Experts contend it's unlikely the U.S. was behind North Korea's failed missile launch last week, but the idea it could have interfered has rattled its leader Kim Jong Un, reportedly leading him to conduct an internal probe.
So far there has been no comment from U.S. officials over possible involvement, but analysts and cyber security experts say the explosion was more likely caused by internal failure in North Korea's weapons development, The Hill reported Saturday.
"North Korea is pushing really hard to pursue ballistic missiles. Any accelerated program experiences many failures," said Joseph Bermudez, an analyst for 38 North, a program of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. "The probability is higher for this to be failures produced by an aggressive program with limited resources."
Former President Barack Obama reportedly directed Pentagon officials in 2014 to develop plans for possible cyber and electronic attacks against North Korea's nuclear missile program. Since that time 88 percent of tests of North Korea's intermediate-range missiles have failed, The New York Times reported.
Rather than using cyber means, the U.S. could be meddling with North Korea's efforts by interfering with the equipment and supplies they must import, though that is a more long-term operation. One cyber expert said that even though the U.S. has the capability to use cyber attacks, it doesn't mean those tactics will be employed.
"It could absolutely have been compromised by cyber means. However, there is no evidence to point to that other than we have that capability," said Steve Bucci, a former Pentagon official who is now a cybersecurity and defense expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
"America has offensive capabilities to mess up people's high-tech toys. But, just having the capability doesn't mean we used it," he added.
The U.S. has conducted cyber attacks in the past. One well-documented case was a cyber attack carried out with Israel in 2010 targeting Iran called the Stuxnet computer virus. The attack was so successful that it destroyed nearly 20 percent of Iran's centrifuges before the Iranians were even aware.
Some former government officials advocate the use of cyber attacks against threats posed by rogue governments. North Korea has been defying international sanctions by conducting missile tests while building its nuclear weapons program.
"When you look at what is emanating out of North Korea, I have sympathy for the argument that anything we can do to stop an unpredictable person from using nuclear weapons is worth trying," Michael Chertoff, former secretary of homeland security who now runs a cybersecurity consulting firm, said Tuesday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
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