NORTH Korea’s elite army of 7,000 cyber soldiers rival the CIA in their expertise and wreak chaos as “the world’s biggest bank robbers”, experts say.
The regime’s tech wizards are groomed from childhood to steal billions around the globe — which tyrant Kim Jong-un spends on weapons and his nuclear missile program.
Experts warn Kim’s expert hackers are a bigger threat to the world than Vladimir Putin’s cyber criminals in Russia.
Crippling attacks on NHS hospitals and Sony Pictures in recent years were a “wake up call” highlighting their growing reach.
Other targets in more than 150 countries have included military sites, international banks and Bitcoin investors.
And earlier this year it was reported Pyongyang’s keyboard warriors tried to hack into drug maker Pfizer to steal secrets of its Covid vaccine.
Yet a report last month in New Yorker Magazine revealed how the West had been ignoring alarm bells for years.
As long ago as 2003, one South Korean expert warned the North’s cyber operation was “on a par with the CIA” — but the US reportedly dismissed it as propaganda.
The secretive regime has been building its army of “information soldiers” since at least the mid-1990s, experts say.
The late dictator Kim Jong-il was quick to see the internet as a threat to his dynasty – and also an opportunity to even the odds against superpowers in the digital age.
In 2005, a Korean People’s Army book quoted Kim as saying: “If the internet is like a gun, cyber attacks are like atomic bombs.”
Despite being almost totally isolated — with only a tiny number of people having internet access — North Korea has developed what is believed to be the most sophisticated criminal hacking operation in the world.
Defectors have revealed how the brightest students are plucked from primary schools and groomed as cyber warriors.
They are housed at elite schools and universities in the capital, and then sent to military bases to learn how to write viruses, program weapons guidance systems and…