[Weekend Briefing] Security mindset

By Dain Oh, The Readable
Sep. 22, 2023 8:56PM GMT+9

“Weekend Briefing” is a weekly newsletter that is sent to The Readable’s subscribers every Friday. Journalists for The Readable select important news stories from the previous week. Topics encompass privacy, cybercrime, and policy development in cybersecurity. There are no costs involved with a subscription, and some content, such as industrial reports, is only available to those who subscribe to our newsletters.

Hello! This is Dain Oh for The Readable. I just landed in Seoul, returning from Washington D.C. It was a blessing to attend the Mandiant Worldwide Information Security Exchange (mWISE), which assembled some of the world’s keenest minds in cybersecurity. I wrote three news articles on the conference, which you can find in this briefing. While I was reporting from D.C., Kuksung Nam covered three significant events which took place in Seoul, regarding national defense and international security. They are all included in the weekly report. Have a wonderful weekend!

1. “AI is an advantage to defenders,” says Mandiant CEO Kevin Mandia

Kevin Mandia, CEO of Mandiant at Google Cloud, is speaking at the Mandiant Worldwide Information Security Exchange (mWISE) on Semtember 18. Photo provided by Google Cloud

Washington D.C. ― mWISE ― Artificial intelligence is poised to tip the balance of power in cyberspace, favoring defenders over attackers by providing beleaguered security teams with faster threat assessments, according to Kevin Mandia, CEO of Mandiant at Google Cloud, on Monday.

“AI gives a greater advantage to the defender because of the way it will eliminate toil and the fact that we are being overwhelmed on the defensive side of the ball,” stressed Mandia while delivering his opening remarks at the Mandiant Worldwide Information Security Exchange (mWISE), the three-day-long conference hosted by the company in Washington D.C. READ MORE

2. North Korean cyber threats are shifting towards social engineering, the latest research by Mandiant reveals

Michael Barnhart, Principal Analyst at Mandiant for Google Cloud, right, and Jenny Town, Director of 38 North, are sharing their research during a session at the Mandiant Worldwide Information Security Exchange (mWISE) on September 18. Photo by Dain Oh, The Readable

Washington D.C. ― mWISE ― While Pyongyang continues to finance its nuclear weapons development through cyber extortion tactics like ransomware attacks and cryptocurrency heists, security experts are sounding the alarm on a recent shift in North Korean hacking methods. The new approach doesn’t rely on technical prowess, but rather employs simple disguises to pose as ordinary individuals for intelligence gathering.

Michael Barnhart, Principal Analyst at Mandiant for Google Cloud, unveiled new research on North Korea’s evolving social engineering tactics during a session at the Mandiant Worldwide Information Security Exchange (mWISE) conference on Monday. In a session aptly named “High volume and low sophistication,” Barnhart recounted a real-world incident targeting 38 North, a publication by the Stimson Center that offers policy analysis on North Korea. Jenny Town, Director of 38 North, also joined the presentation, shedding light on the events of that particular day.

“The cyber threat group is not hacking us anymore. These days, they do not start with the hacking aspect generally. It is a lot of social engineering,” said Town. In the realm of information security, social engineering involves the artful use of deception to manipulate individuals into disclosing confidential or personal information, often leveraged for fraudulent activities. READ MORE

3. Quotes from mWISE: Christopher Wray and more

Christopher Wray, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is delivering his remarks at the Mandiant Worldwide Information Security Exchange (mWISE) on Semtember 18. Photo provided by Google Cloud

Remarks from Christopher Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation

“Anytime so many leaders from the private sector and the government and around the world, both managers and frontline defenders, all get together in one room, cyberspace becomes a little bit safer. I firmly believe that the best way to build our collective defense is by having dialogue about the threats that we’re seeing and having creative conversations about the ways that we can work together to stay ahead of it, which I should add is explicitly the FBI’s vision to stay ahead of the threat.”

“China already has a bigger hacking program than that of every other major nation combined. In fact, if I took every single one of the FBI’s cyber agents and intelligence analysts and devoted them exclusively just to China, Chinese hackers would still outnumber our cyber personnel by at least 50 to 1. Just to say that again, 50 to 1. With AI, China is now in a position to close this cycle to use the fruits of their widespread hacking to power with AI, and even more powerful hacking efforts.” READ MORE

4. China seeks cyber alliance to counter the US, expert says

Designed by Areum Hwang, The Readable

China is intensifying its push to forge a cyber alliance with non-Western nations as a strategic countermeasure against the United States, stated an expert on China’s cybersecurity strategy this Wednesday.

Cha Jung-mi, a director of the Center for International Strategies at the National Assembly Futures Institute, emphasized the critical role of “cyber sovereignty” in understanding China’s approach to shaping cyberspace. “In the Chinese perspective, cyber sovereignty equates to non-intervention,” Cha explained. “China is deeply convinced that Western nations aim to infiltrate and destabilize their systems.” She offered these insights during the fourth National Strategy Forum hosted by the Korean Association of Cybersecurity Studies (KACS). READ MORE

5. South Korean military to enhance cybersecurity in weapon systems

Kim Seung-joo, the first chair of the Korea Security Association for Emerging Military Technologies (KSAEM), is delivering his speech during the inaugural meeting of KSAEM on Monday. Source: Korea Security Association for Emerging Military Technologies (KSAEM)

On Monday, an assembly of former military leaders and cybersecurity experts convened to mark the launch of a new association dedicated to mitigating cybersecurity risks in military weaponry.

“The world is evolving at a very fast pace, with notable advances in artificial intelligence, drones, robots, and space,” observed Kim Seung-joo during the opening ceremony of the inaugural meeting. Seung-joo, who serves as the first chair of the Korea Security Association for Emerging Military Technologies (KSAEM), is also a member of the presidential defense innovation committee. READ MORE

6. South Korean military official stresses need for managing cyber risks in weaponry

Designed by Areum Hwang, The Readable

A South Korean military official emphasized the crucial role of risk management in modern weaponry, which increasingly incorporates emerging technologies, during remarks on Thursday.

“In the past, South Korea was a country that imported weaponry from leading nations in the defense industry,” noted Park Hyun-kyoo, the director of the Defense Computing Information Agency, an organization affiliated with the Ministry of National Defense that concentrates on developing and overseeing the military’s information systems. “Now, South Korea has become a country that export arms.” READ MORE


Dain Oh is a distinguished journalist based in South Korea, recognized for her exceptional contributions to the field. As the founder and editor-in-chief of The Readable, she has demonstrated her expertise in leading media outlets to success. Prior to establishing The Readable, Dain was a journalist for The Electronic Times, a prestigious IT newspaper in Korea. During her tenure, she extensively covered the cybersecurity industry, delivering groundbreaking reports. Her work included exclusive stories, such as the revelation of incident response information sharing by the National Intelligence Service. These accomplishments led to her receiving the Journalist of the Year Award in 2021 by the Korea Institute of Information Security and Cryptology, a well-deserved accolade bestowed upon her through a unanimous decision. Dain has been invited to speak at several global conferences, including the APEC Women in STEM Principles and Actions, which was funded by the U.S. State Department. Additionally, she is an active member of the Asian American Journalists Association, further exhibiting her commitment to journalism.