US ramps up efforts to track down North Korean crypto hackers
The US government is stepping up its efforts to identify and disrupt the activities of North Korean hackers who use cryptocurrency to evade sanctions and fund the regime’s nuclear program.
According to a report by CNN, the US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on two individuals and three entities linked to the Lazarus Group, a notorious cybercrime group that is believed to be behind some of the most sophisticated and damaging cyberattacks in recent years.
The sanctions target the individuals’ and entities’ assets and prohibit any US person or entity from doing business with them. The Treasury Department also offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the identification or location of any person involved in the Lazarus Group’s activities.
The move is part of a broader strategy by the Biden administration to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s cyber capabilities, which have been used to steal billions of dollars from banks, cryptocurrency exchanges, and other targets around the world.
According to experts, North Korea has been using cryptocurrency as a way to circumvent international sanctions and generate revenue for its illicit activities. Cryptocurrency transactions are difficult to trace and can be easily transferred across borders without intermediaries.
The US government has been working with allies and partners to enhance its ability to track and disrupt North Korea’s cryptocurrency operations. In February, the US Department of Justice announced the indictment of three North Korean hackers for their alleged involvement in a series of cyberattacks, including the 2014 Sony Pictures hack, the 2016 Bangladesh Bank heist, and the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack.
The US also joined forces with other countries to form a coalition called the Crypto Rogue Enforcer Team (CRET), which aims to share intelligence and coordinate actions against North Korea’s crypto hackers.
The US hopes that by increasing the pressure on North Korea’s cyber actors, it can deter them from launching further attacks and force them to engage in diplomatic talks over its nuclear program.
However, some analysts warn that North Korea may not be easily deterred by sanctions or rewards, and may even escalate its cyber activities in response. They also point out that North Korea has a large and diverse network of hackers, proxies, and enablers that can help it evade detection and continue its operations.