South Korea and the United States vowed at a recent meeting in Washington to crack down on North Korea’s illegal cyber activities funding the regime’s nuclear and missile programs.
“The two sides agreed on the need to cooperate for an effective response from both South Korea and the United States, as well as from the international community, as North Korea develops new hacking technologies and techniques to avoid international sanctions,” said South Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday.
The ministry’s director-general for North Korean nuclear affairs, Lee Jun-il, co-chaired the fifth U.S.-Republic of Korea Working Group Meeting on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Cyber Threat in Washington from Monday to Tuesday along with U.S. Deputy Special Representative for North Korea Jung Pak.
Some 50 foreign policy, intelligence, law enforcement and finance officials participated in the two-day meeting to share the latest information on the North’s illicit cyber activities.
Suspected attempts by North Korea to expand laundering activities for stolen cryptocurrency calls for closer cooperation with the private sector, said the ministry.
The meeting underscored closer cooperation between Washington and Seoul to disrupt Pyongyang’s ability to “generate revenue through malicious cyber activity, crypto thefts and IT workers, which it uses to fund its unlawful WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and ballistic missile programs,” said the State Department in a statement on Tuesday.
South Korean intelligence reported that the North stole 1.7 trillion won ($1.29 billion) in the cryptocurrencies bitcoin and ethereum through hacking in 2022 alone.
The working group meeting, first held in August 2022, was previously held in July.
In its latest meeting, the group also discussed the North’s potential resumption of sending IT workers overseas in violation of UN Security Council resolutions as Pyongyang began to roll back its Covid-19 border closure.
The two governments have shared relevant information, including guidelines to prevent the hiring of North Korean IT workers on Oct. 19.
The latest guidance highlighted some red flags that the company may have hired a North Korean IT worker, including the unwillingness of the worker to appear on camera, conduct video meetings or meet in person, as well as repeated requests for prepayment.
These IT developers, including programmers and graphic designers, could be hired as freelancers to work on mobile or web-based applications, cryptocurrency exchange platforms or digital coins, graphic animation, online gambling programs, mobile games, AI-related applications and virtual reality programs.
Seoul and Washington have levied sanctions this year on North Korean hacking groups. South Korea sanctioned North Korean hacking group “Kimsuky,” believed to be behind major cyberattacks and this June’s theft of satellite technology worldwide.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [email@example.com]