North Korea Actively Engaged in AI Developments, Cybersecurity Experts Concerned

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The development of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies in North Korea is raising concerns, the authors of a recent report say.

Demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

Demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Image credit: Roman Harak via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

North Korea is reportedly applying these technologies in various areas, including responding to COVID-19, ensuring the safety of nuclear reactors, conducting wargaming simulations, and implementing government-related surveillance.

Despite international sanctions related to its nuclear weapons program also impacting North Korea’s access to AI hardware, the study suggests that the country is actively pursuing the latest artificial intelligence technology. The lack of transparency raises concerns about the ethical use of AI and the potential militarization of AI technologies for offensive purposes.

The development of artificial intelligence (AI) in North Korea introduces several challenges. For example, the country’s interest in developing a wargaming simulation program utilizing machine learning could reflect its intent to enhance understanding of operational environments vis-à-vis potential adversaries.

Report was prepared by Hyuk Kim from James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS). It highlights North Korea’s strategic investment in AI/ML development to strengthen its digital economy. The findings are based on open-source information, including state media and journals, and were published by the 38 North project on Tuesday.

The publication indicates that North Korea’s AI researchers have engaged in collaboration with foreign scholars, including those from China.

Seoul’s intelligence agency has reportedly detected indications that North Korean hackers may be using generative AI to identify targets and acquire the necessary technologies for hacking. However, there is no evidence of such AI being utilized in actual cyberattacks at this point.

North Korea established the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute in 2013, and several companies within the country have been promoting commercial products incorporating AI in recent years.

The report mentions that despite the country’s restrictions on communications technology and strict monitoring, during the COVID-19 pandemic, North Korea utilized AI to develop a model for assessing proper mask usage and prioritizing clinical symptom indicators of infection. Additionally, North Korean scientists have published research exploring the application of AI for ensuring the safety of nuclear reactors.

Written by Alius Noreika

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