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[Opinion] Internet Spy

Posted July. 07, 2005 02:29,   


At the Security Pavilion of the National Intelligence Service, devices that used to be carried by North Korean spies who have been arrested since the 1960s are on display. The devices are diverse, ranging from pistols, poisoned needles and tables of random numbers to various equipments used for infiltration, weaponized glasses and fountain pens. But they appeared to be crude to the eyes that are familiar with state of the art intelligence equipment in the movies. They are even raising doubts whether spies in modern times use these devices.

The dictionary defines a spy as one who is employed to obtain and report secret information of potential or actual enemies or competition. In this vein, these devices once owned by spies are no longer useful. With all the modern conveniences led by the Internet, there is no longer a need to sneak into military or security establishments to spy on them. What’s more, it is conventional wisdom in intelligence circles that more than 90 percent of all useful information is contained in publicized data.

It was found belatedly that the National Intelligence Service arrested two North Korean spies who used the Internet as their major device for spying activities. They are accused of attempting to contact the North Korean intelligence agency and uploading reports to the web. Many would not find this surprising given that there have been suspicions for a long time that North Korea has an elite hacking squad up and running. The history of the Internet dates back to 1969 when the U.S. Pentagon developed it for military purposes. It was designed to be built as a communication network that would survive wars. It is an irony that the Internet, which came into being for such a purpose, now poses a threat to security.

It is getting difficult to hunt down spies these days. Indeed, it is a daunting task to track down spies who carry out their secret spying activities on the Internet, a sea of anonymity. Against this backdrop, some politicians are calling for the immediate abolition of the National Security Law.

Its abolition would virtually deprive the government of the ability to counteract the plots of spies who have a larger stage opened up for them. Hearing the news of spy arrests for the first time in a long time, one of my friends said, “At least, they don’t seem like they’ve given up tracking down spies.” After all, what matters is the government’s commitment to crack down on spies.

Song Mun-hong, Editorial writer, songmh@donga.com