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Min Chao Choy
Min Chao Choy is a data journalist for NK News and NK Pro, currently based in Los Angeles. She was previously at a news wire covering Asia/Oceania and Cybersecurity.
The U.S. intended to “tarnish the image” of the DPRK with recent cyber-crime accusations, a statement published on North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website said on Friday evening.
The statement, attributed to a spokesperson for the “National Coordination Committee for Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” referenced a U.S. government report published last month called the “DPRK Cyber Threat Advisory,” which accused the North of committing multiple high-profile cyber-crimes.
The unnamed DPRK spokesperson issued a flat denial of the charges.
“To put it clearly, our state has nothing to do at all with what is claimed by the U.S. to be a “cyber threat,” the statement said.
“The previous incidents of cyber-attack which the U.S. had linked to us were clearly proven to be the acts of international hackers, and even the experts in the U.S. have officially admitted them,” the statement said, without specifying which attacks or which experts.
The U.S. is “provoking us by employing a new leverage called ‘cyber threat’ together with the issues of nukes, missiles, ‘human rights,’ ‘sponsoring of terrorism,’ and ‘money laundering,’” the statement continued.
The Cyber Threat Advisory had alleged that North Korea was behind, among others, the Sony Pictures hack in 2014, virulent ransomware WannaCry 2.0, and a global ATM cash withdrawal scheme dubbed “FASTCash.”
The report was jointly issued by the U.S. State, Treasury, and Homeland Security Departments, as well as the FBI.
The DPRK statement also was issued hours after U.S. Justice Department announced the indictment of 28 North Korean nationals for money laundering, revealing a “multi-year scheme” that allegedly funneled $2.5 million into the DPRK.
Although the indictment did not cite cyber crimes as part of the money laundering operation, which involved North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank, experts have revealed many instances of North Korean cyber operations targeting financial institutions.
April’s Cyber Threat Advisory also accused North Korea of being behind the 2016 Bangladesh Bank heist, where hackers were able to steal over $81 million from the bank through fraudulent and unauthorized SWIFT transactions.
Experts have also pointed to North Korean-affiliated actors such as Lazarus Group as the hackers behind the 2018 Central Bank of Mexico (Banxico) and Banco de Chile heists, which utilized a similar operations order of phishing-malware-hijacking SWIFT.
In addition to financially motivated cyber operations, North Korea-affiliated hackers have been accused of successfully stealing US-ROK military plans in 2017, going after North Korean defectors via personal data leaks in 2018, and conducting a high-profile personal device hack in 2019.
Despite North Korea’s cyber operations allegedly targeting countries across Latin America, South Asia, and Africa, the DPRK spokesperson’s statement closed with an appeal to the international community not to believe the accusations.
“The U.S. should be clearly aware that worthless and worn-out plots and fabrications invented continuously by themselves will no longer work against the international community,” they said.
The U.S. intended to “tarnish the image" of the DPRK with recent cyber-crime accusations, a statement published on North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website said on Friday evening.
The statement, attributed to a spokesperson for the "National Coordination Committee for Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea," referenced a U.S. government report published last month called the “DPRK Cyber Threat Advisory,” which accused the North of committing multiple high-profile cyber-crimes.