The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday accused three North Korean military intelligence agents of stealing $ 1.3 billion from banks and other targets in a cyber-attack campaign, crypto and traditional currencies.
The first action by President Joe Biden’s administration against Pyongyang was what North Korea has dubbed the “global campaign of crime”.
The department accused the three of a far-reaching hacking and malware operation of raising funds for their government without punishing the UN sanctions that have cut their revenue streams.
In at least seven years, the officials created malicious cryptocurrency applications that opened back doors to the target people’s computers. hacked into companies that market and trade digital currencies like Bitcoin; and developed a blockchain platform to circumvent sanctions and secretly collect donations, the department said.
The case filed in federal court in Los Angeles builds on the 2018 charges against one of the three identified as Park Jin Hyok.
He was charged with hacking Sony images in 2014, creating the infamous WannaCry ransomware, and stealing $ 81 million by the Central Bank of Bangladesh in 2016.
The new charges added two defendants, Jon Chang Hyok and Kim Il.
The three allegedly worked together in the hacking-focused Reconnaissance General Bureau of the North Korean Military Intelligence Service, better known in the cybersecurity community as the Lazarus Group or APT 38.
In addition to previous charges, the three allegedly operated out of North Korea, Russia and China to hack computers using marlin techniques and to promote cryptocurrency applications loaded with malicious software that could empty victims’ crypto wallets.
They allegedly robbed digital currency exchange in Slovenia and Indonesia and extorted a New York exchange of $ 11.8 million.
In a 2018 program, they robbed Pakistani bankIslami $ 6.1 million from ATMs after gaining access to their computer network.
The Justice Department did not specify how much the defendants allegedly stole in total.
– ‘Keyboards instead of weapons’ –
In addition, according to Blockchain, Kim Il developed the blockchain-based digital currency-like “Marine Chain Token”, which was supposedly an instrument for investors to buy shares in ships.
He marketed ways to invest in the system in Singapore without telling potential investors that it was primarily intended to hide shipowning identities to help North Korea avoid sanctions.
All measures, according to the Justice Department, should “promote the strategic and financial interests of the (North Korean) government and its leader Kim Jong Un.”
“North Korea’s employees who use keyboards instead of guns and steal digital wallets with cryptocurrency instead of money bags are the world‘s leading bank robbers,” Deputy Attorney General John Demers said in a statement.
“Such indictments against nation states are an important step in identifying the problem, formulating it in a legally strict format and establishing international consensus,” said Demers.
At the same time, the department announced that Ghaleb Alaumary, of Mississauga, Canada, had pleaded guilty to charges of acting as a money launderer for the North Koreans.
Alaumary helped remove money from ATMs hacked by the North Korean operation.
He is also a “productive” money launderer for other hackers involved in ATM withdrawal programs, cyber-enabled bank theft and fraud programs based on the hijacking of corporate emails.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)