North KoreaNorth Korean soldiers train for cyber-attacks | Photo credit CNBC

As tensions continue to escalate between the United States and North Korea, it appears the regime is finding new ways to attack. The latest threat is not nuclear. However, if successful, it could create mass disruption around the country. The report from FireEye, a cybersecurity firm, details efforts by North Korea to target U.S. power companies.

Specifically, hackers with direct ties to North Korea recently sent spearfishing emails to several major electricity suppliers. The emails contain invitations to fake fundraisers as an attachment. When recipients download and open the file, it installs malware on the system. Hackers could then use the software to shut down power grids.

While the hacks were unsuccessful, FireEye says they could be foreshadowing a disruptive cyber attack. Former FBI chief of counter-intelligence, C. Frank Figliuzzi, tells NBC that Pyongyang is proving they have more than one type of weapon. “This is a signal that North Korea is a player in the cyber-intrusion field and growing in its ability to hurt us,” he says.

Weapons of Mass Disruption

Photo credit | Home Power Systems

This report comes just two months after intelligence officials warned of the growing cyberthreat from the North. Experts both inside and outside the government fear Kim Jong-Un will respond to increasing international pressure by launching cyber attacks. The isolated country ranks third, behind Russia and China, in their ability to carry-out such an attack.

Consequently, in 2014 North Korean hackers took aim at Sony Pictures. The hack revealed the personal information of tens of thousands of people. Moreover, it exposed several embarrassing email exchanges between top executives and high-powered actors. The cyber attack came after Sony released The Interview-a blockbuster comedy mocking Kim.

Now, experts are concerned that the rogue regime could deploy similar techniques to target U.S. infrastructure. It the North successfully launches a major cyber attack, they could disable corporate networks, steal money from banks and potentially disrupt critical services. All of which, would no doubt cripple the American economy.

In June, U.S. law enforcement and Homeland Security officials provided information on industries they believe North Korea is currently targeting. The list includes media, aerospace, financial and critical infrastructure sectors throughout the country. Intelligence officials warn that despite the U.S. having cyber-offensive capabilities to retaliate, it remains vulnerable.



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