US charges three North Koreans in $1.3 billion hacking spree

Three North Koreans have been charged in a multibillion-dollar heist of cryptocurrency

The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles and the Federal Bureau of Investigation also obtained warrants to seize about $1.9 million in cryptocurrency allegedly stolen by the hackers from a NY bank and that was held at two cryptocurrency exchanges - businesses that exchange digital currencies for hard currency, like U.S. dollars.

The overall amount of money stolen by the hackers is not clear because in some cases the thefts were either halted or reversed.

The alleged perpetrators of the crimes, Jon Chang, Kim Il, and Park Jin Hyo, who are from North Korea, could face a prison sentence between 5 and 30 years if convicted.

Targeting of Cryptocurrency Companies and Theft of Cryptocurrency: Targeting of hundreds of cryptocurrency companies and the theft of tens of millions of dollars' worth of cryptocurrency, including $75 million from a Slovenian cryptocurrency company in December 2017; $24.9 million from an Indonesian cryptocurrency company in September 2018; and $11.8 million from a financial services company in NY in August 2020 in which the hackers used the malicious CryptoNeuro Trader application as a backdoor. "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".

At the same time, prosecutors announced a plea deal with a dual U.S.

Last year, the US government became so concerned about North Korea's wide-ranging activity that it issued a dire advisory to cybersecurity professionals and the public about the hazards posed by the country's hackers.

"North Korea's operatives, using keyboards rather than guns, stealing digital wallets of cryptocurrency instead of sacks of cash, have become the world's leading bank robbers", said John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for national security.

"These North Korean military hacking units are known by multiple names in the cybersecurity community, including Lazarus Group and Advanced Persistent Threat 38 (APT38)", the DOJ said.

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None of the three defendants is in custody or likely to be, but the indictments serve as a message to the hackers that they are not anonymous.

Three North Koreans have been charged in the US.

Also undertaken by the conspiracy is a scheme that involved creating malicious applications that masqueraded as legitimate cryptocurrency trading platforms, only to use them as a backdoor to transfer money to their accounts fraudulently.

The indictment says the computer breaches often began with spear-phishing emails that contained malware that allowed them to access their victims' computer systems. The U.N.in 2019 estimated that North Korea has stolen $2 billion via cyberattacks to fund its weapon of mass destruction program, and added to that figure in a more recent report. The defendants used false names so potential investors would not realize they were supporting the North Korean regime, the indictment alleged. He also laundered money from a North Korean cyber heist of a Maltese bank in 2019, prosecutors said.

It also unsealed a charge against a Canadian-American for suspected involvement in the laundering of stolen funds.

For example, the DOJ indictments say these apps were involved in stealing $11.8 million in August 2020 from a financial services company based in NY.

Despite the indictment, the USA doesn't expect any of the defendants will face trial in the near future.

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