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U.S. seeks to seize nearly 300 accounts linked to N. Korean hacking

Diplomacy 06:43 August 28, 2020

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. Justice Department said Thursday it has filed a complaint to forfeit 280 cryptocurrency accounts linked to hacks by North Korean actors, a move it said would counter the communist state's unrelenting efforts to fund the country's "failed regime."

"The Justice Department today filed a civil forfeiture complaint detailing two hacks of virtual currency exchanges by North Korean actors," it said in a released statement.

"These actors stole millions of dollars' worth of cryptocurrency and ultimately laundered the funds through Chinese over-the-counter (OTC) cryptocurrency traders," the department noted, adding North Korean hackers are known to have stolen US$250 million in cryptocurrency through other exchange hacks that were exposed earlier in the year.

U.S. seeks to seize nearly 300 accounts linked to N. Korean hacking - 1

""Today's action publicly exposes the ongoing connections between North Korea's cyber-hacking program and a Chinese cryptocurrency money laundering network," said the statement.

In one of the two hacks alleged in the complaint, an actor tied to North Korea stole over $272,000 worth of cryptocurrencies and tokens in July 2019, while the other case involves nearly $2.5 million in virtual currency and other funds stolen from a U.S. company in September 2019, the department said.

"Although North Korea is unlikely to stop trying to pillage the international financial sector to fund a failed economic and political regime, actions like those today send a powerful message to the private sector and foreign governments regarding the benefits of working with us to counter this threat," it added.

The complaint comes one day after the U.S. Cyber Command issued a joint alert with the FBI and other related U.S. agencies against North Korea's cyber attacks on banks in what it called an ATM cash-out scheme.

The Justice Department said the investigation into the two North Korean hacks alleged in Thursday's complaint has been supported by both the U.S. Cyber Command and the FBI.

Washington believes the North maintains up to 6,000 trained hackers, many of whom are believed to be based in other countries, including China.

The U.S. government earlier said Pyongyang has attempted to heist at least $2 billion since 2015, apparently with some success, by hacking into banks and international financial transactions in more than 30 countries.

"As North Korea becomes bolder and more desperate in their efforts to steal money using sophisticated money laundering techniques, the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) will continue to apply pressure by exposing their fraudulent transactions," HSI Special Agent Steven Cagen was quoted as saying by the Justice Department.


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