The departments of Homeland Security, State and Treasury with the FBI on Wednesday issued a joint alert warning of an increase in cyber threats from North Korea.
The agencies warned that North Korea poses a “significant threat” to the global financial system, with hackers targeting these institutions to fund Pyongyang's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs to get around sanctions from the United Nations and the United States.
The agencies wrote in the alert that North Korea “uses cyber capabilities to steal from financial institutions, and has demonstrated a pattern of disruptive and harmful cyber activity that is wholly inconsistent with the growing international consensus on what constitutes responsible State behavior in cyberspace.”
North Korea has repeatedly engaged in cyber-enabled theft and money laundering, and as of late 2019 had attempted to steal around $2 billion through these activities, according to the agencies. Hackers are also alleged to have engaged in extortion campaigns through accessing networks and threatening to shut them down if they are not paid a ransom.
In order to counter North Korean cybersecurity threats, the U.S. agencies recommended that countries raise awareness of the threat with the public, enhance the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure such as financial institutions, notify law enforcement of any attacks and promote international cooperation on this issue.
“It is vital for the international community, network defenders, and the public to stay vigilant and to work together to mitigate the cyber threat posed by North Korea,” the agencies wrote.
North Korea has long been considered one of the most dangerous countries in cyberspace alongside Russia, China and Iran.
The U.S. has taken steps against North Korea for its malicious cyber activities in the past. The Treasury Department sanctioned three cyber criminal groups with ties to the North Korean government last year for targeting critical infrastructure.
Multiple governments alleged one of the groups carried out the WannaCry 2.0 ransomware attack, which encrypted or locked down over 300,000 computer systems worldwide, seriously impacting about 8 percent of the United Kingdom’s general medical practices.
The 2019 Worldwide Threats Assessment compiled by former Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats concluded that North Korea posed “a significant cyber threat to financial institutions, remains a cyber espionage threat, and retains the ability to conduct disruptive cyber attacks.”