The U.S. Department of Treasury on Friday issued new designations against three North Korean entities involved in hacking and cyber theft.
Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) targeted the Lazarus Group, Bluenoroff, Andariel for their wide-ranging cyber crimes and their relationship the previously sanctioned Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB).
“Treasury is taking action against North Korean hacking groups that have been perpetrating cyberattacks to support illicit weapon and missile programs,” Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said in a press release.
“We will continue to enforce existing U.S. and UN sanctions against North Korea and work with the international community to improve cybersecurity of financial networks.”
According to OFAC, the Lazarus Group targets “government, military, financial, manufacturing, publishing, media, entertainment, and international shipping companies, as well as critical infrastructure.”
Part of the RGB’s 3rd Bureau, 110th research center, OFAC claimed the group was behind 2017’s WannaCry attack which affected 300,000 computers in over 150 countries, including part of the UK’s National Health Service infrastructure.
The other two designations targeted two Lazarus subgroups, who between them were responsible for several high profile cyber-attacks.
“Bluenoroff conducted successful operations targeting more than 16 organizations across 11 countries, including the SWIFT messaging system, financial institutions, and cryptocurrency exchanges,” OFAC said.
The North Korean hacking group worked with Lazarus to steal $80 million from the Central Bank of Bangladesh’s New York Federal Reserve account in 2016.
OFAC said that the second subgroup called Andariel focuses on “conducting malicious cyber operations on foreign businesses, government agencies, financial services infrastructure, private corporations, and businesses, as well as the defense industry.”
“One (of Andariel’s attacks) spotted in September 2016 was a cyber intrusion into the personal computer of the South Korean Defense Minister in office at that time and the Defense Ministry’s intranet in order to extract military operations intelligence.”
The OFAC press release also highlighted that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) were working “in tandem” to disclose potential North Korean cyber attacks.
“This, along with today’s OFAC action, is an example of a government-wide approach to defending and protecting against an increasing North Korean cyber threat and is one more step in the persistent engagement vision set forth by USCYBERCOM,” OFAC said.
In their most recent mid-term report, the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) also noted an uptick in the frequency, severity, and sophistication of DPRK cyber activity.
The PoE received reports of DPRK cyber attacks in Bangladesh, Chile, Costa Rica, the Gambia, Guatemala, India, Kuwait, Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Nigeria, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Slovenia, South Africa, Tunisia, and Viet Nam.
“With regard to the foreign currency earned through cyberattacks, according to one Member State, ‘These activities contribute to the DPRK’s WMD programme”. Implementing such attacks is low risk and high yield, often requiring minimal resources,” the PoE wrote.
The PoE estimated that the North’s proceeds from cybercrimes could reach $2 billion, a figure which if accurate could help explain how the North Korean economy continues to keep its head above water despite few visible financial inflows.
The U.S. Department of Treasury on Friday issued new designations against three North Korean entities involved in hacking and cyber theft. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) targeted the Lazarus Group, Bluenoroff, Andariel for their wide-ranging cyber crimes and their relationship the previously sanctioned Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB). “Treasury is taking action against North
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