According to The BBC the DPRK successfully hacked the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Defense. This includes contingency plans developed with the US.
Hackers from North Korea are reported to have stolen a large cache of military documents from South Korea, including a plan to assassinate North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.
Rhee Cheol-hee, a South Korean lawmaker, said the information was from his country’s defence ministry.
The compromised documents include wartime contingency plans drawn up by the US and South Korea.
They also include reports to the allies’ senior commanders.
The South Korean defence ministry has so far refused to comment about the allegation.
Plans for the South’s special forces were reportedly accessed, along with information on significant power plants and military facilities in the South.
This type of cyber warfare, specifically an act of espionage in the cyber domain, provides the DPRK with an asymmetric informational advantage. This advantage creates a limiting factor for the ROK, the US, and their allies in attempting to deter the DPRK’s actions and activities. A limiting factor is defined in Joint Publication 1-2/Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms as:
A factor or condition that, either temporarily or permanently, impedes mission accomplishment. (from Joint Publication 5-0/Joint Operational Planning)
If the reports about this hack are correct, the US’s military options, which were already constrained by the physical and human geography of the Korean peninsula, have now been further narrowed by enemy action. While US military planning is continuously updated with plans and sequels being adjusted as needed, they are usually based on a consensus understanding of the potential operating environment. This includes an understanding of the challenges and opportunities that arise from everything from the political to infrastructure to the geography of where the US may have to deploy military forces. What the DOD planners will have to do now is go back and review the consensus that the contingency plans were based on to determine if they have the operational space to develop new plans for the same potential operating environment that both achieve the same strategic effects and are significantly different enough to neutralize the asymmetric information advantage that the DPRK now has.