North Korean Hackers Charged in Vast Cryptocurrency Theft

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On Wednesday federal authorities indicted three North Korean computer hackers. They were indicted for conducting a series of cyber-attacks. Their aim was to steal 1.3 billion in cash and cryptocurrency from financial institutions. According to the Justice Department they are part of the North Korean military intelligence agency. The three are also accused of creating and installing multiple malicious cryptocurrency applications, and to expand and fraudulently market a blockchain platform.

The plot also placed repeated “spear-phishing campaigns” between 2016 and 2020. These targeted employees and workers at the State Department, U.S. Defense Departments, energy firms, tech firms, aerospace companies and U.S.-cleared defense contractors. The indictment also said that the hackers seized bank ATMs taking cash out of them.

Between 2017 and 2018 the supposed Marine Chain Token was developed. This Token allowed investors to purchase fractional possession in marine shipping vessels with blockchain technology. This would allow North Korea to covertly obtain funds and dominate interests in shipping vessels, and avoid U.S. sanctions.

Working for the North Korea State

U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, Tracey Wilkins, said “The scope of the criminal conduct by the North Korean hackers was extensive and long-running, and the range of crimes they have committed is staggering.” She added, “The conduct detailed in the indictment are the acts of a criminal nation-state that has stopped at nothing to extract revenge and obtain money to prop up its regime.”

Park Jin Hyo 36, Jon Chang, 31, and Kim Il, 27, have been charged with being members of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, a North Korean military intelligence agency, involving criminal hacking. The indictment was filed at the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, on the same day, Ghaleb Alaumary, 37, a Canadian-American citizen, pleaded guilty in a money-laundering scheme. He admitted that he helped the North Koreans cash-out their cyber bank heist, officials said. Alaumary arranged groups of people in the U.S. and Canada to launder millions of dollars acquired by the hacker through ATM cash transactions.

Hackers and Bandits

The hackers are also accused of trying to steal 1.2 billion from banks in Vietnam, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Mexico, Malta and Africa. They broke into the bank’s computer networks and sent out fraudulent messages through the SWIFT bank messaging system. The hackers are accused of stealing millions of dollars from hundreds of companies.

In Slovenian, they stole $75 million from a cryptocurrency company, and $25 million cryptocurrency from a company in Indonesia. They used a Crypto Neuro Trader application toward a New York financial services firm, that helped steal $11.8 million last year.

Assistant Attorney General John Demers of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said “North Korea’s operatives, using keyboards rather than guns, stealing digital wallets of cryptocurrency instead of sacks of cash, are the world’s leading bank robbers.”