White House officials say that while most countries’ cyber programs focus on espionage or attack capabilities for traditional geopolitical purposes, the North Koreans focus on stealing hard currency to get around tough international sanctions.
This is stated in a report Published by the American “Wall Street Journal” shows that North Korea has created a shadow workforce of thousands of IT experts who work in different countries around the world, including Russia and China, and earn money, sometimes up to more than $300,000 per year per person, through normal technical work.
How do they work?
The report, prepared for the paper by Robert McMillan from San Francisco, who writes about computer security, hackers, and privacy, and Dustin Falls from Washington, D.C., who specializes in cybersecurity and intelligence, adds that North Korean hackers posing as Canadian IT workers, government officials, and independent Japanese blockchain developers, add They conduct video interviews to get a job, or they pose as potential employers.
In order to be employed by crypto firms, these hackers hire so-called “front people” who are nominal leaders of organizations to imbue some nefarious activities with respect to job interviews, while making sure to disguise the fact that they are North Koreans. Once hired, former victims and investigators say, these hackers sometimes make small changes to the products that allow them to hack.
The report says that the largest piracy operation carried out by the North Koreans during 5 years of digital thefts that reaped more than $ 3 billion, is when they succeeded in stealing $ 600 million from the Sky Mavis gaming company.
Funding military programs
The report quoted US officials as saying that piracy money is used to finance about 50% of North Korea’s ballistic missile program, which was developed alongside its nuclear weapons, noting that defense spending represents a large part of North Korea’s total spending, as estimated by the US State Department. In 2019, Pyongyang spent about $4 billion on defense, accounting for 26% of its total economy.
The report stated that digital thieves in North Korea began launching their first major attacks on cryptocurrencies around 2018. Since then, North Korea’s missile launch attempts and successes have spread, with more than 42 successes observed in 2022, according to data tracked by James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
US officials cautioned that so little is known about the sources of funds in the country amid Western sanctions, it is not possible to obtain an accurate understanding of the role played by cryptocurrency theft in increasing the rate of missile tests. But the backlog of tests for North Korea’s reclusive regime has occurred at the same time as an alarming resurgence in cryptocurrency theft.
The report cited North Korea-linked hackers directing ransomware to US hospitals in recent years, and quoted Nick Carlsen, a former FBI analyst who works for a blockchain-tracking firm, as saying that North Korea looks like a modern-day hacker state.
International experts have long said North Korea is developing a digital army to rob banks to evade harsh sanctions and support its ambitions to project its geopolitical power through nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. A 2020 UN report found that revenue-generating system hacking has proven to be “low-risk, high-reward and difficult to detect, and its increasing sophistication can mask evidence.”