Inside the ‘Surprisingly Great’ North Korean Hacker Hotel

North Korea is so isolated that rather than bring the Internet to its hackers, it brings them to it—in a swank hotel in China.

The Daily Beast
The Daily Beast
The luxury hotel that has been called a command post for North Korean hackers would make for a unique holiday getaway and give you lots to talk about back home.

“Surprisingly Great Hotel – Clean, Tasteful…. and North Korean!” says a trip advisor review for the Chilbosan Hotel in Shenyang, China.

For just $53, you get “a deluxe twin room,” including a North Korean breakfast considerably more substantial than those enjoyed by the vast majority of North Koreans.

The amenities include a fitness room, a sauna, a beauty parlor, and a karaoke setup. There is also broadband Internet access, which is the reason why North Korean hackers have favored this 16-story hotel across the border from their homeland.

Handout
Handout

The hermit kingdom has maintained an army of thousands of hackers for more than a decade, but it did not establish its first direct connection to the Internet until 2010.

The problem with connections is that they can go both ways and the North Korean regime is in a constant struggle to keep its citizens from glimpsing the splendors of the outside world.

At the same time, the regime has recognized that the Internet is a realm where it can act out its aggressions at relatively little cost or risk.

And this is a form of warfare where North Korea’s lack of a cyber infrastructure or even a reliable electrical gird actually works to its advantage; the hermit kingdom is so hermetically sealed as to be virtually hack proof, thereby confounding anybody bent on retaliation.

So, rather than bring the Internet to the hackers, the North Korean regime brought the hackers to the Internet, at places such as the Chilbosan Hotel, which it partly owns in partnership with the Chinese.

The priority that the regime places on cyber warfare is made clear by its recruiting. Fledgling hackers are chosen from among the youngsters who show the most talent for mathematics and they are given years of training, often with additional instruction in China or Russia. They then become members of the ultra elite Unit 121, granted premium housing and a well-stocked cupboard.

While the world was rightly fretting about North Korea’s nuclear bomb, the hackers tested a malware “logic bomb” in 2007. The United Nations was prompted to impose a ban on selling mainframe computers or laptops to North Korea. But soon one of the UN’s own offshoots was doing exactly that.

“Fully ready for any form of high-tech war,” the regime said of itself in 2009.

Written by: – continue at THE DAILY BEAST

Leave a Reply