The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has imposed sanctions on four entities and one individual involved in illicit IT worker schemes and cyberattacks that generate revenue for North Korea’s weapons development programs. North Korea relies on a large number of anonymous IT workers who employ deceptive tactics, including stolen identities and fake personas, to secure employment abroad.
The generated revenue is funneled to support the Pyongyang regime’s weapons programs. These workers can accumulate salaries exceeding $300,000 annually while concealing their true identities. The DPRK’s extensive cyber and IT operations threaten international security and finance its unlawful activities, according to US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.
The sanctioned entities include Pyongyang University of Automation, responsible for training “malicious cyber actors,” as well as the Technical Reconnaissance Bureau and the 110th Research Center cyber unit of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), which coordinate cyberattacks and develop malicious tools.
The Chinyong Information Technology Cooperation Company, linked to the North Korean Ministry of Peoples’ Armed Forces, coordinates IT workers operating from Russia and Laos to generate revenue. Additionally, North Korean national Kim Sang Man is involved in payment-related activities.
The OFAC previously sanctioned Tornado Cash and Blender.io cryptocurrency mixers used by North Korean hackers to launder stolen Ethereum. Hacking groups Lazarus, Bluenoroff, and Andariel were also previously sanctioned for funneling stolen financial assets to the North Korean government.
A confidential report from UN experts revealed that North Korean threat actors engaged in record-breaking cryptocurrency theft in 2022, estimated between $630 million to over $1 billion, doubling the illicit gains from cyber theft in the previous year.
The US, along with its partners, is committed to combating North Korea’s illicit revenue generation activities and efforts to steal money worldwide.