US Agencies: N. Korea Funds Nukes With 'Bank Robbery'

FBI, Treasury, and other agencies say hacking scheme 'may erode confidence' in banking systems
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2020 10:55 AM CDT
US Agencies: N. Korea Funds Nukes With 'Bank Robbery'
In this photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, attends a meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Tuesday.   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Hackers linked to North Korea's government are trying to rob banks around the world to fund the country's nuclear weapons programs. That's according to the FBI, the US Treasury, US Cyber Command, and Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which warned of the behavior in a joint statement on Wednesday. It describes a "FASTCash" scam in which malware is used to target payment infrastructure and servers that process transactions, giving hackers access to ATM payouts, per the Hill. With the scheme—underway since at least February, following a lull since late 2019—North Korea has resumed a useful tactic. The North Korean hacking team BeagleBoyz was previously implicated in the 2016 theft of $81 million from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, part of a failed attempt to steal $1 billion in total.

The agencies claim BeagleBoyz has tried to steal $2 billion from financial institutions since 2015. In 2018, hackers were able to steal $13 million from India's Cosmos Bank by arranging simultaneous withdrawals from 14,000 ATMs in 28 countries, a task security officials believe would require international criminal groups, per the Wall Street Journal. The agencies say fraudulent international money transfers and ATM cash-outs are part of the "widespread international bank robbery scheme that exploits critical banking systems" and "may erode confidence in those systems," per the Hill. Vikram Thakur, technical director for cybersecurity firm Symantec, argues the attacks "are proof of the reliance the regime has on these funds, along with being a testament to their technical ability and determination," per Fox News. (North Korea is said to be working on baby nukes.)

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