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US government targets North Korea’s illegal IT workforce with new sanctions

The US government announced new sanctions against North Korea related to its army of illegal IT workers who have fraudulently obtained employment to finance the regime’s weapons programs of mass destruction.

North Korea maintains thousands of “highly skilled” IT workers around the world, primarily in China and Russia, which “generate revenue that contributes to its illegal weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs”, US Tuesday, according to an announcement from the Treasury Department.

These individuals, who in some cases earn more than $300,000 per year, intentionally obscure their identity, location and nationality by using stolen identities and false documents to apply for jobs with employers located in “wealthy countries”. Are. He has worked covertly in various positions and industries, including the areas of “business, health and fitness, social networking, sports, entertainment and lifestyle”.

While these individuals engage in legitimate IT work related to malicious cyber activity, primarily on cryptocurrency projects, they use virtual currency exchange and trading platforms to repatriate illegally obtained funds to the DPRK, according to the announcement. .

Treasury announced sanctions on Tuesday against four entities employing “thousands” of North Korean IT workers. One of these is the Pyongyang University of Automation, described by the Treasury as one of North Korea’s “preeminent cyber instructional institutions”. The institute is said to have been training cyber criminals, who go on to serve in cyber units attached to the Reconnaissance General Bureau. (RGB) , The country’s primary intelligence agency.

Treasury also approved the Technical Reconnaissance Bureau and its 110th Research Center, which leads the DPRK’s offensive cyber strategy and equipment development. The center is also believed to have trained operatives of the infamous Lazarus Group, which was linked to the theft of $625 million in cryptocurrency from Ronin, an Ethereum-based sidechain built for the popular play-to-earn game Axi Infinity.

Sanctions were also announced against Chunyong Information Technology Cooperation Company and an individual named King San Man in connection with their IT activist activities.

Brian E. Nelson, Under Secretary of State for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said, “Today’s actions continue to expose the DPRK’s extensive illegal cyber and IT activist operations, which finance the regime’s illegal weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.” Is.” “The United States and our allies are committed to combating the DPRK’s illegal revenue generating activities and continued efforts to launder money from financial institutions, virtual currency exchanges, companies, and private individuals around the world.”

The US government also warned early last year that North Korea-backed hackers were targeting employees of cryptocurrency companies by sending highly targeted phishing emails, which included a high-profile attempt to lure victims into downloading trojanized cryptocurrency applications. – Will include offer of a paying job.

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