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Federal government charges North Korean hackers with years of heists and scams

Most surprising, perhaps, is the extent of the hackers’ alleged schemes as cryptocurrency crooks and even potential entrepreneurs. The indictment describes how the North Koreans – particularly Kim Il – planned to launch a cryptocurrency token system called Marine Chain, which would sell a blockchain-based stake in marine vessels, including cargo ships. According to the British think tank the Royal United Services Institute, Marine Chain was identified by the United Nations as a North Korean sanctions circumvention system in 2018; we don’t know if he ever took off.

In another cryptocurrency theft scheme, hackers are tasked with creating a long list of malicious cryptocurrency apps with names like WorldBit-Bot, iCryptoFx, Kupay Wallet, CoinGo Trade, Dorusio, Ants2Whales, and CryptoNeuro Trader, all designed to surreptitiously steal victims’ crypto-currencies. . The United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a Notice Wednesday on the malware family built into these apps called AppleJeus, warning that the malicious apps were distributed by hackers posing as legitimate cryptocurrency companies, who sent the apps in phishing emails or tricked users into downloading them from fake websites . The security company Kaspersky had version aware Apple Games from 2018.

The indictment demonstrates the growing United States’ willingness to indict foreign hackers for cyber attacks and cybercrime schemes that do not target only American institutions, says Greg Lesnewich, threat intelligence analyst at the security company Recorded Future. For some of the accusations, he points out, Americans have only been affected as holders of cryptocurrency stolen from international exchanges. “It’s an extension of what the United States is prepared to pursue, even though the victims are not American entities,” he said.

At the same time, Lesnewich says that the long line of crimes described in the indictment also shows that North Korea has broadened its ambitions to use and steal the cryptocurrency in any way that could help finance his government hungry for sanctions. “They are now using very ingenious methods to steal cryptocurrency,” Lesnewich explains. “They are clearly putting some of their ‘best’ people – without a quote – on it to solve this problem in different ways.

While none of the three North Koreans have been arrested and extradited – and given that they are in North Korea, they likely never will be – prosecutors also exposed the charges against Ghaleb Alaumary, a 37-year-old Canadian who would have served as money. money launderer for the North Korean bank robberies. Alaumary, who has previously pleaded guilty to money laundering charges, had previously been arrested and charged with a commercial email hacking scheme in the Southern District of Georgia.

As for Park, Jon and Kim, the Justice Department hardly expects to lay a hand on them, Deputy Attorney General John Demers admitted at Wednesday’s press conference. But he argued that the indictment nonetheless sends a message to the North Korean regime and any other state considering similar rogue behavior that they and their hackers will be identified and, whenever possible, held accountable, including with other diplomatic tools such as sanctions. “You think you are anonymous behind a keyboard, but you are not,” said Demers, presenting the indictment as evidence. “We explain how we can prove attribution not at the level of a nation-state, or at the level of a unit within a military or intelligence organization, but to an individual hacker.”

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