North Korea funneled $1 billion for its nuclear programs through cyber crypto heists
SEOUL — North Korea has stolen more than $1 billion in cryptocurrencies and hard currencies in the past two years to fund its nuclear weapons program, the US secretary of homeland security said Tuesday in the US.
US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas made the claim in his written testimony submitted ahead of a plenary session of the Committee on Homeland Security in the House of Representatives.
“In the last two years alone, North Korea has largely funded its weapons of mass destruction programs through cyber heists of cryptocurrencies and hard currencies totaling more than $1 billion,” the US secretary said in the written statement.
“Hostile nations like Russia, the People’s Republic of China, Iran, North Korea and cybercriminals around the world continue to sharpen their tactics and create more adverse consequences.”
The ransomware attacks target financial institutions, hospitals, pipelines, electric grids and water treatment plants to wreak havoc on daily lives, Mayorkas said.
Citing observations from American authorities, including the FBI, Mayorkas said incidents involving ransomware occurred in 14 of the 16 US critical infrastructure sectors, and victims in the first half of 2021 paid an estimated $590 million in ransom, compared to $416 million over all of 2020.
He warned that the actions of hostile nations exploiting the integrated global cyber ecosystem leads to discord, undermines liberal democracy and erodes trust in institutions, public and private alike.
Mayorkas touched on how adversaries, including North Korea, pose as an increased threat for the US, especially in a time when the world has seen human and economic devastation from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our adversaries are more aware of the significance of biological threats. Additionally, a global desire to mitigate the consequences of future pandemics is likely to expand global interest in leveraging and advancing biological technology capabilities, including technologies used for biosafety and biosecurity,” Mayorkas said.
“The use of chemical agents by Russia and North Korea in targeted attacks outside their borders in recent years reaffirms our commitment to monitor for and defend against similar attempts in the homeland.”
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