US authorities accused three North Korean hackers of large-scale cryptocurrency theft

US authorities accused three North Korean hackers of large-scale cryptocurrency theft


Today, US federal authorities announced that three North Korean programmers were charged with conducting a series of cyber attacks aimed at stealing and extorting more than $ 1.3 billion in cash and cryptocurrency from financial institutions and companies.

According to a press release issued by the US Department of Justice, these individuals, who are employees of the North Korean military intelligence agency, are also accused of creating and deploying numerous malicious applications designed to steal cryptocurrencies and scamming the blockchain platform market. As part of the activities of these hackers, from 2016 to 2020, many targeted phishing attacks were carried out, targeting employees of the US Department of Defense, the State Department, as well as employees of defense contractors and employees of energy, aerospace and technology companies that cooperate with the United States.

The indictment said the hackers also gained control of a number of ATM machines, which they used to receive unauthorized cash. In addition, US officials said attackers in 2017 and 2018 were working on Marine Chain Token, which allowed investors to buy shares in shipping companies using blockchain technology, allowing North Korea to secretly receive funds from investors, monitor the interests of shipping companies, and evade US sanctions.

According to Tracy Wilkinson, acting attorney for the Central District of California, the scale of North Korean hacker criminal behavior has been extensive and persistent, and the number of crimes committed by them is staggering. The defendants include 31-year-old Jon Chang, 27-year-old Kim Ir and 36-year-old Park Jin Hyo, who in September 2018 was involved in a criminal case for a cyberattack on Sony Pictures and creation of the well-known ransomware WannaCry.

In addition to North Korean hackers, US citizen Ghaleb Alaumary was also involved in the case, who laundered the stolen money for the attackers. According to the US authorities, he organized groups of people in the US and Canada to launder millions of dollars received by hackers from ATMs.

It is assumed that the conspiracy was motivated not only by financial gain, but also by a desire for revenge. For example, hackers attacked Sony in 2014 for producing the satirical film Interview, which showed the scenario of the overthrow of the ruling North Korean regime.

It is also reported that between 2015 and 2019, hackers tried to steal more than $ 1.2 billion from banks in Vietnam, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Mexico, Malta and Africa. Hackers have carried out many successful attempts to steal cryptocurrency, including stealing $ 75 million from a Slovenian company and stealing $ 25 billion from an Indonesian cryptocurrency exchange. The defendants also launched WannaCry 2.0 ransomware in 2017.

It should be noted that it is quite difficult to suppress the activities of such hacker groups. In recent years, cybercriminals have stolen billions of dollars in bitcoin, and the digital nature of these thefts often makes it difficult for authorities to track down scammers.

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