Several media people have inquired if we should expect a cyber strike against the North Korean nuclear program, or why such strike didn’t happen already. Here is my answer.
A cyber strike against North Korean nuclear assets is highly unlikely, and here is why.
I don’t assume that North Korea uses similar digital control systems in their enrichment plants as Iran. As I have analyzed in To Kill a Centrifuge, the Iranian control systems are unique because they are mostly used as a protection system which allows Iran to operate unreliable centrifuges. Neither Urenco (the mother of all enrichment technology) nor Pakistan needed such an oversophisticated protection system, because their centrifuges didn’t crash all the time. I assert that North Korea managed to manufacture reliable rotors just like Pakistan, thereby saving the need for a digital protection system. But no digital control, no cyber attack surface.
Also keep in mind that anybody aiming to disrupt North Korea’s enrichment program is several years late. The hermit kingdom has enough weapons-grade uranium in stock to credibly threaten a nuclear attack. If they are using digital control for critical functions of their missile launch and control systems, they must be nuts. Let’s just assume they are aware of US cyber infiltration capabilities, especially after the Sony attack, and rely on old-style analog control for their nuclear weapons.