United States charges three North Korean hackers over crypto attacks and WannaCry ransomware

Remigio Civitarese
Febbraio 18, 2021

"Ray Hushpuppi", and others to launder funds from a North Korean-perpetrated cyber-enabled heist from a Maltese bank in February 2019".

A man from Mississauga has pleaded guilty in connection with a US$1.3-billion extortion plot allegedly staged by hackers based in North Korea.

"North Korea's operatives, using keyboards rather than guns, stealing digital wallets of cryptocurrency instead of sacks of cash, are the world's leading bank robbers", said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers of the Justice Department's National Security Division.

The defendants' alleged victims include banks in Mexico, Malta, Pakistan, Poland, the Philippines, Vietnam and the United States, as well as crypto currency companies in Europe and Asia and online casinos in Central America.

North Korea has emerged in the last decade as among the most sophisticated and threatening hacking forces in the world, according to cybersecurity experts and the US government.

The 33-page indictment unsealed Wednesday charges Park, Jon Chang Hyok and Kim Il with criminal conspiracy, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.

"These North Korean military hacking units are known by multiple names in the cybersecurity community, including Lazarus Group and Advanced Persistent Threat 38 (APT38)", the DOJ said.

The department charges that the group either stole or attempted to steal a total of more than 1.3 billion dollars of money and cryptocurrency, including the theft of 81 million dollars from a bank in Bangladesh in 2016. Warrants obtained by the government allowed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to seize roughly $1.9 million from two different cryptocurrency exchanges used by the hackers, money that investigators say will be returned to the NY financial services firm.

USA prosecutors say the men were members of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), an intelligence division of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) that manages the state's clandestine operations. "The conduct detailed in the indictment are the acts of a criminal nation-state that has stopped at nothing to extract revenge and obtain money to prop up its regime".

None of the three defendants is in custody or likely to be, but the indictments serve as a message to the hackers that they are not anonymous.

The Bangladesh Bank attack, which saw hackers use the Swift messaging system to convince the Federal Reserve Bank of NY to transfer $81 million from the victim's account to accounts they controlled in the Philippines.

Also undertaken by the conspiracy is a scheme that involved creating malicious applications that masqueraded as legitimate cryptocurrency trading platforms, only to use them as a backdoor to transfer money to their accounts fraudulently.

The three are accused of developing several malicious cryptocurrency applications, which provided them a back door into victims' computers.

They also allegedly targeted cryptocurrency companies in Slovenia, Indonesia and elsewhere. "These indictments indicate the scale of the fraud Pyongyang engages in to support its other activities, including nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development", he said. -Canadian citizen who investigators say organized the sophisticated laundering of millions of dollars in stolen funds.

The Justice Department also announced Wednesday that a Canadian-American man agreed to plead guilty in a money laundering scheme connected to the hackers.

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