US charges 3 N.Korean hackers for cyberattacks to steal $1.3bn
Published: 11:01 AM, 18 February 2021 Updated: 01:25 PM, 18 February 2021
US Justice Department has charged three North Korean military intelligence officials for cyberattacks to steal $1.3 billion from banks and other targets; Photo: Collected
The United States Justice Department has charged three North Korean military intelligence officials on Wednesday in a campaign of cyberattacks to steal $1.3 billion in crypto and traditional currencies from banks and other targets.
This is the first action of President Joe Biden’s administration against Pyongyang, saying North Korea wages “a global campaign of criminality”.
According to AFP, the department accused the three of a wide-ranging hacking and malware operation to obtain funds for their government while avoiding punishing UN sanctions that have cinched off its sources of income.
The three North Korean military intelligence officials created malicious cryptocurrency applications over the last seven years to hack into companies marketing and trading digital currencies like bitcoin and “developed a blockchain platform to evade sanctions and secretly raise funds,” the department said.
The case filed in federal court in Los Angeles builds on 2018 charges against three - Park Jin Hyok, Jon Chang Hyok and Kim Il.
Park Jin Hyok was charged with the 2014 hack of Sony pictures, the creation of the notorious WannaCry ransomware, and the 2016 theft of $81 million from the central bank of Bangladesh.
The allegations said the three worked together in the North Korean military intelligence’s hacking-focused Reconnaissance General Bureau, better known within the cybersecurity community as the Lazarus Group, or APT 38.
They allegedly robbed digital currency exchanges in Slovenia and Indonesia and extorted a New York exchange of $11.8 million. Besides, they robbed $6.1 million from ATM machines in 2018 from Pakistan’s BankIslami after gaining access to its computer network.
The charges said Kim Il developed the blockchain-based digital currency-like “Marine Chain Token” which ostensibly was an instrument for investors to buy shares of shipping vessels.
All of the actions, the Justice Department said, were to “further the strategic and financial interests of the (North Korean) government and its leader, Kim Jong Un.”