A case of licensed pirates – Every pirate on the planet dreams of stealing cryptomoney at the first slip up from its rightful owners. North Korea’s « state hackers » are even specially trained to do so. Dissatisfied with this practice, the American justice system has just put three of these professional hackers in its sights.
Professional crypt thieves
The Office of Public Affairs of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), through a press release, has just revealed an indictment against three North Korean military hackers.
The defendants – Jon Chang Hyok, Kim Il and Park Jin Hyok – are members of the special unit of the General Reconnaissance Bureau (RGB), a North Korean military intelligence service. A unit also known as the Lazarus Group.
Among the many malicious acts of hacking of which they are accused, the 3 individuals are said to have targeted companies linked to the crypto-actives and committed theft of crypto-currencies:
« (…) $75 million from a Slovenian crypto company in December 2017, then $24.9 million from an Indonesian crypto company in September 2018 and $11.8 million from a financial services company in New York in August 2020 (…).
In total, these targets already account for nearly $112 million in stolen cryptos.
An arm’s length resume of mischief
Among the many other accusations of cyber-attacks made by these hackers are their repeated use of very fashionable ransomwares, but also a good old fake ICO (Initial Coin Offering). The latter has proposed a so-called « Marine Chain Token » from 2017 to 2018, which has both diverted and laundered cryptomoney in favour of North Korea.
« The individuals indicted today have committed an unprecedented series of financial and cyber-crimes (…) ».
This indictment allowed the FBI to seize some of the crypto-assets stolen from the New York financial department mentioned earlier. In total, $1.9 million worth of cryptomoney has been recovered and will be returned to the victim company.
The charges of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse carry a sentence of 5 years in prison for the three North Koreans, and conspiracy to commit electronic and banking fraud can result in up to 30 years in prison for the three North Koreans.
While most states treat and hunt down hackers as criminals, North Korea makes hacking a kind of national sport with specialized military units. More than ever in this new bull market, we will have to be careful to keep our precious cryptos.