U.S. Authorities Investigating Cyptocurrency-Related Attacks From North Korea: Report

Omar Faridi

U.S. intelligence authorities have reportedly accused North Korean hackers of orchestrating large-scale cybercrimes involving cryptocurrency hacks, mining and bank theft.

According to the Korea Herald, U.S.-led political and economic sanctions have motivated North Korean actors to carry out various security breaches. These allegedly included a major hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014, a large-scale bank robbery in Bangladesh in 2016, and the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017.

North Korean Hackers Charged for Alleged Involvement in Cryptojacking By DOJ

As reported by U.S. broadcasting service Voice of America (VOA), Tonya Ugoretz, the Deputy Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Cyber Intelligence Unit, recently confirmed that evidence suggests North Korean hackers were behind several security breaches - which reportedly led to the loss of millions of dollars in cryptocurrency.

In September 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) charged a North Korean hacker, named Park Jin-hyok, for allegedly being involved in several different cryptojacking incidents. Elaborating on the potential reasons for these attacks, Ugoretz told VOA:

Sanctions are having an economic impact, so cyber operations are a means to make money, whether it’s through cryptocurrency mining or bank theft.

FBI Making Concerted Effort to Combat Cryptojacking

Meanwhile, Erin Joe, Head of the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center under the Director of the U.S. National Intelligence Agency, noted during a conference that American government agencies were primarily concerned with North Korea’s involvement in launching cryptocurrency-related cyberattacks.

While speaking at the conference, arranged by U.S.-based think tank, the Aspen Institute, Joe revealed:

There is a huge effort in the FBI, and also several other entities across government, looking at ways to stop malicious activity [associated with] cryptocurrency.

Joe, who has more than 22 years of experience in investigating criminal operations and national security issues, as a Special Agent in FBI, explained that cryptojacking (hogging the computing resources of unsuspecting users to selfishly mine cryptocurrencies) is “a relatively new thing.”

Cyber Threats Coming from China, Iran, Russia

She added that it “comes with a variety of issues that [authorities] need to learn more about,” so that they can look for ways to prevent malicious entities from exploiting loopholes in computer systems throughout the world.

Other cybersecurity-related topics discussed during the recent conference included conversations around how to use deterrence techniques to prevent online financial crimes. In addition to citing serious concerns regarding crypto-related cyber threats from North Korea, U.S. government agencies are also reportedly investigating similar exploitative activity in regions located in China, Iran, and Russia