In a recent move to curb North Korean cyber threats, the United States and South Korea have jointly rolled out fresh sanctions, taking aim at North Korea’s extensive IT workforce. This workforce, comprising of thousands of IT professionals mainly stationed in China and Russia, is allegedly responsible for funding the country’s illicit weapons and missile programs.
At the forefront of these sanctions are Kim Sang-man, a key individual, and Chinyong Information Technology Cooperation Company, a North Korean entity. Both have been jointly blacklisted by the US and South Korea for their alleged contributions to these IT operations, as stated by the US Treasury Department.
The foreign ministry of South Korea has concurrently declared new sanctions on seven individuals and three organizations, inclusive of Kim and the aforementioned IT firm.
North Korea’s worldwide IT workforce is predominantly based in China and Russia. The Treasury Department noted that these operatives work undercover, often using falsified documents to secure employment across a wide range of sectors – from business and health to sports and entertainment. These clandestine activities allegedly fuel North Korea’s illegal weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
Furthermore, employing North Korean IT workers could result in incidents of intellectual property theft, as cautioned by the US State Department. Other sanctioned entities include the 110th Research Centre, Pyongyang University of Automation, and Technical Reconnaissance Bureau, known for their illicit cyber operations and revenue generation.
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“The new sanctions underscore North Korea’s widespread illicit cyber and IT activities that financially support its illegal weapons programs,” said Brian Nelson, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
South Korea’s foreign ministry reinforced the message, indicating that this joint initiative with the US aims to dismantle North Korea’s malicious revenue streams originating from illegal cyber activities.
The Treasury Department singled out North Korea’s Technical Reconnaissance Bureau, currently spearheading offensive cyber efforts, and their association with the notorious Lazarus hacking group. This group is infamous for executing some of the most massive virtual currency heists. For instance, in March 2022, Lazarus allegedly pilfered approximately US$620 million in virtual currency from a blockchain project related to the online game Axie Infinity.
This news is based on the original report by Malay Mail.