THE US JUSTICE Department has charged three North Korean computer programmers in a broad range of global hacks.
The US says it's identified three North Korean hackers who allegedly tried to steal $1.3 billion in cash and cryptocurrencies in an attempt to fund the country's government.
While Russian and Chinese hackers focus much of their illicit cyber activities on espionage or interfering in the US political system, North Korea has been aggressive in the criminal realm.
The department accused the three of a wide-ranging hacking and malware operation to obtain funds for their government while avoiding punishing United Nations sanctions that have cinched off its sources of income. The charges also accused the trio of deploying "multiple malicious cryptocurrency applications" and "fraudulently market a blockchain platform".
One of the defendants, Park Jin Hyok, was also charged in a complaint about the Sony hack that was unsealed in September 2018. The other two are Jon Chang Hyok and Kim Il.
The newly-unsealed indictment builds on an earlier criminal case brought in 2018 and adds two additional North Korean defendants.
Targeting of Cryptocurrency Companies and Theft of Cryptocurrency: Targeting of hundreds of cryptocurrency companies and the theft of tens of millions of dollars' worth of cryptocurrency, including $75 million from a Slovenian cryptocurrency company in December 2017; $24.9 million from an Indonesian cryptocurrency company in September 2018; and $11.8 million from a financial services company in NY in August 2020 in which the hackers used the malicious CryptoNeuro Trader application as a backdoor.
Cyber-Enabled ATM Cash-Out Thefts: Thefts through ATM cash-out schemes - referred to by the US government as "FASTCash" - including the October 2018 theft of $6.1 million from BankIslami Pakistan Limited (BankIslami).
The Justice Department did not specify exactly how much it believed the defendants have stolen altogether.
He marketed opportunities to invest in the scheme in Singapore, without telling potential investors that it was mainly created to hide ship ownership identities to help North Korea avoid sanctions, the charges said.
The satirical film, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, ridicules North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and centres around a fictitious assassination plot against him.
"As laid out in today's indictment, North Korea's operatives, using keyboards rather than masks and guns, are the world's leading 21st century nation-state bank robbers", said assistant Attorney General John Demers.
"Nation-state indictments like this are an important step in identifying the problem, calling it out in a legally rigorous format, and building worldwide consensus", Demers said. He also laundered money from a North Korean cyber heist of a Maltese bank in 2019, prosecutors said. U.S. investigators now say they've identified two other North Koreans in the group: 31-year-old Jon Chang Hyok and 27-year-old Kim Il.
The department said the three suspects engaged in a wide array of criminal activities that sought to steal up to $1.3 billion in cash or cryptocurrency from banks and businesses.
The review "will take into account the totality of the malign activity and the threats that are emanating from North Korea", Price said.
"What we see nearly uniquely out of North Korea is it trying to raise funds through illegal cyber activity", Demers said.