Increased Cyber Threats From North Korea

The US is warning its Banks and othet Financial institutions that they could soon be attacked by a fresh wave of North Korean state-sponsored hackers.

In the past the US has blamed North Korea for the November 2014 cyber attack on Sony Pictures and has accused Pyongyang-linked actors of being behind campaigns to steal tens of millions of dollars from banks and automated teller machines. It has also accused them of developing the WannaCry ransomware that infected computers in more than 150 countries.

More recently, a UN report found North Korean hackers had generated $2 billion to offset money lost because of sanctions for its nuclear program. Now the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), State, Treasury and FBI have recently published a Report about an increase in cyber threats from North Korea.

The agencies warned that North Korea poses a “significant threat” to the global financial system, with hackers targeting these institutions to fund Pyongyang's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs to get around sanctions from the United Nations and the United States. The agencies say that North Korea is increasingly able to generate revenue despite UN Security Council sanctions by using malicious cyber activities to steal from financial institutions through increasingly sophisticated tools and tactics”. North Korea  steals from financial institutions, and has demonstrated a pattern of disruptive and harmful cyber activity in cyberspace.

North Korea has repeatedly engaged in cyber-enabled theft and money laundering, and as of late 2019 attempted to steal around $2 billion through these activities, according to the agencies.  

Hackers are also alleged to have engaged in extortion campaigns through accessing networks and threatening to shut them down if they are not paid a ransom. In order to counter North Korean cybersecurity threats, the US agencies recommended that countries raise awareness of the threat with the public, enhance the cyber security of critical infrastructure such as financial institutions, notify law enforcement of any attacks and promote international cooperation on this issue.

"In order to support international efforts to disrupt North Korea’s illicit activities, the State Department’s Rewards for Justice (RFJ) program offers rewards of up to $5 million for information that leads to the disruption of financial mechanisms of persons engaged in certain activities that support North Korea, including money laundering, sanctions evasion, cyber-crime, and WMD proliferation," says a dedicated page on the Rewards for Justice portal.

“It is vital for the international community, network defenders, and the public to stay vigilant and to work together to mitigate the cyber threat posed by North Korea,” the agencies wrote.  

North Korea has long been considered one of the most dangerous countries in cyberspace alongside Russia, China and Iran. 
The US has taken steps against North Korea for its malicious cyber activities in the past. The Treasury Department sanctioned three cyber-criminal groups with ties to the North Korean government last year for targeting critical infrastructure. 
Multiple governments alleged one of the groups carried out the WannaCry 2.0 ransomware attack, which encrypted or locked down over 300,000 computer systems worldwide, seriously impacting about 8 percent of the United Kingdom’s general medical practices. 

According to the US Dept.of Homeand Security (DHS) North Korea's cyber actors new tactics include cyber-enabled financial theft and money laundering, extortion campaigns, and crypto-jacking.

The 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment compiled by former US Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats concluded that North Korea posed “a significant cyber threat to financial institutions, remains a cyber espionage threat, and retains the ability to conduct disruptive cyber-attacks.”

US CERT:       The Hill:        Bleeping Computer:       Dark Reading:       VOA Cambodia

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US Sanctions Against N. Korean Hacking Groups:

 


 

 

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