North Korea is excelling in a field of cybercrime with each passing day despite the tight economic sanctions levied by the United Nations and the United States of America in 2006 to prevent North Korea of the necessary funds for its nuclear program. North Korea has boosted its cyber capabilities by exploiting digital susceptibilities across the globe.
North Korea’s hacking groups code-named Lazarus Group or Hidden Cobra have launched several cyber-attacks across the globe to extort money for its banned nuclear weapons development program. Lazarus was suspected of being the driving force behind the famous robbery of nearly $80 million from the Bangladeshi Central Bank.
US Department of Homeland and the FBI in 2017 released a cybersecurity bulletin explaining the connection of North Korea to several cyber-attacks on US businesses and critical infrastructure. In May 2020 North Korea recruited nearly 100 science and technology university graduates into its military forces to oversee its tactical planning systems. Approximately 100 hackers graduate from Mirim College, also known as the University of Automation.
As per the reports of defector testimony, North Korea is training graduates from Mirim College to dismantle Microsoft Windows Operating Systems, build destructive computer viruses and write code in various computer programming languages. WannaCry ransomware a North Korean-led cyberattack in 2017, which wrought havoc in more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries by exploiting vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Windows operating system.
According to US Army reports, the alarming thing is that North Korea is not acting alone, North Korea has recruited nearly 6,000 cyber agents across the globe in four intelligence organizations. China is one of the North Korea supporters, it helps North Koreans illicit cyber activities via training and academic intrusion. North Korean students often study at topmost Chinese science and technology universities such as the Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) where they have access to advanced technology and equipment which are unavailable in their home country due to U.S. and U.N. sanctions.
In November 2019, the North Korean Chairman of the Education and the Chinese Ministry of Education jointly signed the China-North Korea Education and Cooperation Agreement (2020-2030) to reinforce academic partnerships and postgraduate student exchanges. This tie-up was done to increase foreign exchange and higher education training programs which may lead to increased cybercrime, given the nature of these science and technology universities.
The U.S. government continues to expose new and dangerous cyber groups that pose a serious threat to international security and U.S. national interests. However, all is not lost for the United States and its global allies, the U.S. Department of Justice can mandate cybersecurity audits for U.S. banks and financial institutions as part of deferred prosecution agreements to boost compliance with the basic cybersecurity structure described by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
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