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Feds Bust N. Korean Identity Theft Ring Targeting US Firms | #cybercrime | #computerhacker

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has cracked down on a large-scale identity theft scheme allegedly orchestrated by North Korea (aka Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DRPK)

On Thursday, the DoJ unsealed charges, seizures, and other court-authorized actions brought forth by two criminal prosecutions from the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Computer Crime and the DOJ’s Intellectual Property Section.

The charges reveal how North Korea-based cybercriminals deployed thousands of IT workers overseas, primarily in China and Russia, using stolen American identities to gain remote employment with Fortune 500 firms.

The targeted organisations included a major television network, a Silicon Valley technology company, an aerospace manufacturer, a car manufacturer, a luxury retail store, and a media company.

These workers allegedly gained access to sensitive corporate data and secured lucrative paychecks by assuming fake identities while earning significant salaries that were then funnelled back to North Korea. 

It is worth noting that as per US authorities, this is the largest case ever charged by the DoJ involving IT workers, allegedly part of an extensive scheme generating significant profits for North Korea, including its weapons program. 

Among those arrested is US citizen Christina Marie Chapman, 49, for defrauding US companies through running a “laptop farm.” Chapman and her accomplices allegedly compromised over 60 US identities, impacted over 300 US companies, created false tax liabilities for 35 US persons, and generated at least $6.8 million in revenue for the workers.

The Department of Homeland Security also seized funds related to Chapman’s scheme and wages and monies accrued by over 19 overseas IT workers. 

Additionally, three foreign nationals were charged with money laundering. A Ukrainian national Oleksandr Didenko, 27, was arrested in Poland and his website domain was seized for creating fake job search accounts and selling them to overseas workers who applied for jobs at US companies. Vietnamese national Minh Phuong Vong was arrested in Maryland for fraudulently obtaining jobs at a US company.

The fraud scheme exploits factors such as a high-tech labour shortage in the US and the proliferation of remote telework, states Marshall Miller, the DoJ’s principal associate deputy attorney general.

Assistant Director Kevin Vorndran of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division stated that on the surface it appears a “typical white collar or economic crime scheme,” but in reality, it is an attempt to “evade US sanctions, victimize US businesses, and steal US identities,” but the FBI will use all available resources to bring those who help North Korea evade sanctions to justice.

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