The North Korean Elite Unit-121 Hackers – Have Hotel Will Hack



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Dec 22 2014
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In the Hollywood film “World War Z”, only two countries have been able to successfully stopped zombies infection. One is Israel, where an intercepted email mentioning zombies had tipped the country, hence built a gigantic wall in Jerusalem to protect the uninfected from the zombies. That was done a full week before the pandemic hit the world in full force. Interestingly, in the film the wall actually brings Israelis and Palestinians together.

World War Z

The second country is North Korea, where within a 24-hour period, the government has removed the teeth of its citizens (*grin*), making it impossible for the disease to spread. The efficiency, albeit cruelty, of North Korean dictatorship puts other countries especially America, to shame. Although Jerusalem didn’t last long before the zombies storm, it shows Israel never takes any risk, especially when it concerns about national security.

World War Z - Israel Wall

Sure, it was just a movie, but the fact that North Korea would do the simplest yet most effective things to isolate the country from foreign threats can be mirrored with what happens to Sony Pictures hack recently. After coward Sony was reprimanded by lame duck President Obama, the Japanese company seems to have made a U-turn and signals it may release “The Interview” film after all, thanks partly to public pressures.

 

While Sony CEO Michael Lynton is beating around the bush about the distribution method, BitTorrent has taken the challenge (and probably calling Sony’s bluff) and has offered to release the controversial comedy film on its own servers. Still, many are still wondering and curious as to how the North Korean, a country which United States and South Korea love to belittles, could accumulate such a firepower in hacking.

North Korean Hackers - The Interview Movie - dictator Kim Jong-un

One word – arrogance. That could be the only answer why North Korean hackers, presumably the “Guardians of Peace”, could easily stole 100-terabytes of Sony’s confidential data. The Americans, Japanese, South Koreans and other cronies have always underestimate North Korean capabilities. The logic goes that if the communist country couldn’t even feed its own people, how could they do something as hi-tech as hacking?

 

Well, it’s true that North Korea is poor. Heck, the country is also so isolated that even if Obama administration wanted to hack North Korea out of revenge, the plan will not work, simply because dictator Kim Jong-un has removed the teeth of its citizens, just like in the “World War Z” film – no internet access. What the country has is only “Intranet”, without any access to the outside world. And they’re using their own operating system, called “Red Star”.

North Korea Red Star Operating System

North Korea grooms their hackers who are chosen from among the youngsters who show the most talent for mathematics. They are then given years of training, with assistance from China and Russia. Soon, they become the elite group “Unit 121”, with premium housing and sufficient food thrown in, something normal citizens couldn’t even imagine having. Defectors claimed the North Korean military possess as many as 5,000 hackers on their payrolls.

North Korea Elite Group Unit 121

And where do their hackers operate? Answer – Chilbosan Hotel in Shenyang, China. Located 21-km from Shenyang Taoxian International Airport, Chilbosan Hotel is known as North Korean hackers command post. For as little as RM184 (US$53, £33.80) for a Deluxe Twin-Room with free WiFi and breakfast thrown in, the hackers are treated like kings. There are tons of amenities, which include Chinese, Korean and Western restaurants, beauty salon, sauna, fitness room, karaoke setup and whatnot.

China-North Korea Chilbosan Hotel

The hackers love the 4-star hotel with 5-star amenities a lot. As one hotel reviewer said, the room itself was new, immaculately clean with tasteful touches of North Korean tapestries and pillows. It also had a beautiful free-standing bathtub that could rival any 5-star hotel in Beijing. Another TripAdvisor review from an Australian said: this was the best hotel, rooms were spacious and clean, breakfast was good with supplies being refreshed constantly.

China-North Korea Chilbosan Hotel - Room BedChina-North Korea Chilbosan Hotel - Working Table

The North Korean regime partly owns Chilbosan Hotel, hence the North Korean staffs. But after the revelation about the hotel’s role as hacker centre in 2004, the regime had diversified. Still, Chilbosan remains as “one of many hotels” occupied by Unit 121, whenever they are instructed to launch a major hacking. They have a malware “logic bomb” in 2007 and took over some 100,000 South Korean computers in 2012.

China-North Korea Chilbosan Hotel - Standing BathroomChina-North Korea Chilbosan Hotel - BathTub

Last year alone, the hackers hit three media outlet and two major banks in South Korea. In April 2013, Microsoft reported that South Korea had the highest number of computers reporting the detection and removal of malware using its antivirus software, suspected to be an excellent work from North Korean hackers. With only one internet cafe in Pyongyang, it didn’t take genius Obama administration in putting pressure on China.

China-North Korea Chilbosan Hotel - Toilet SinksChina-North Korea Chilbosan Hotel - Corridor Walkway

Obviously, the Sony Pictures hack was done with the full knowledge and probably endorsement from the Chinese government. With a paradise-liked Chilbosan Hotel as attraction, Kim Jong-un hackers would literally kill each other to be chosen to carry out any hacking activities as instructed by their master. The only hack they haven’t try – to hack western banks and transfer billions of dollars to Kim’s account (*grin*).

China-North Korea Chilbosan Hotel - Receptionist LobbyChina-North Korea Chilbosan Hotel - RestaurantChina-North Korea Chilbosan Hotel - Restaurant 2

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