North Korea cyber operations target financial sector

On 22 May Reuters covered the activities of the North Korean hackers group known as Unit 180, which allegedly operates under the North Korean intelligence agency - The Reconnaissance General Bureau. According to a former computer science professor at the Hamhung university, Kim Heung-Kwang, who left North Korea in 2004, the unit is responsible for hacking financial institutions worldwide and stealing money out of bank accounts. The government hackers, including Heung-Kwang's ex-students, are allegedly operating from abroad, posing as employees of trading companies, branches of North Korean companies, or joint ventures in China/Southeast Asia.

Security experts are pointing out that North Korean hackers prefer financial cyber crime at the expense of traditional espionage and cyber harassment of South Korean and U.S targets, as was the case of the cyber attack against Sony due to the release of the movie Interview. This opinion is supported by the massive operations attributed to Pchjongjang, which include for example the campaign against global financial institutions, multiple thefts exploiting the global information network SWIFT (for example the Bangladesh central bank heist) and the recent wave of ransomware attacks.

About author: Roman Šulc

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