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US charges three North Korean hackers over crypto attacks and WannaCry ransomware

On Wednesday, the United States Department of Justice announced charges against three North Korean hacker. 

Making the announcement, Assistant Attorney General John Demers condemned the North Korean program, the most famous branch of which is Lazarus Group. Demers 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.”

With a country largely sequestered from the international economy, North Korea’s hacking program has been a critical source of revenue. Many have linked hacking income from sources like the WannaCry malware and crypto exchange Coincheck with the nuclear weapons program. Demers elaborated:

“The DPRK cyber threat has followed the money and turned its revenue generation sights on the most cutting edge aspects of international finance, including through the theft of cryptocurrency from exchanges and other financial institutions.”

North Korea’s hacking program has been the subject of extensive scrutiny, both from the U.S. and internationally. As the country has no widespread internet access, many cite China’s role in training North Korean hackers. Indeed, the U.S. sanctioned two Chinese affiliates of Lazarus Group back in March 2020.