The United States of America has given its nod for the sanction of three North Korean state-sponsored hacker entities responsible for “North Korea’s malicious cyber activity on critical infrastructure,” announced the U.S Department of Treasury on September 13, 2019.
According to the announcement, the U.S Department of the Treasury has identified sanctions against North Korean groups, namely Lazarus group, Bluenoroff, and Andariel. These organizations have found their place in the sanctions list as they were accused of channelizing a theft of a whopping amount of $571 million cryptocurrencies from five Asian exchanges in 2017 and 2018.
The authorities stated that the stolen currencies and coins had been utilized in the evolution of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Owing to the sanction, all the assets owned or controlled by Lazarus group, Bluenoroff, and Andariel, are suspended and must be informed to Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
The U.N. Security Council North Korea Sanctions Committee quoted:
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cyber actors, many operating under the direction of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, raise money for its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programs, with total proceeds to date estimated at up to two billion US dollars.
“U.S. persons which broadly include citizens, residents, and companies incorporated in the U.S., are generally prohibited from dealing with the blocked entities. Anyone violating the sanctions could themselves be subject to designation by the Treasury,” stated the announcement.
Also, the announcement clarified that U.S financial institutions would restrain themselves from working with any financial institution of any part of the country which continues to remain in contact with the blocked entities.
Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said:
Treasury is taking action against North Korean hacking groups that have been perpetrating cyberattacks to support illicit weapon and missile programs. […] We will continue to enforce existing U.S. and UN sanctions against North Korea and work with the international community to improve the cybersecurity of financial networks.
This crucial announcement has come only a few days after North Korea’s announcement of holding the second edition of the crypto-related conference in February, next year, in Pyongyang. The conference will welcome the blockchain and crypto enthusiast to share their inputs in the advancement of the digital currency arena.
However, the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s official state media, refuted the accusations of theft on the native entities. KCNA quoted the statement given by the National Coordination Committee of the DPRK for Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism that blamed the U.S and other hostile forces for spreading false news.
The statement read:
Such a fabrication by the hostile forces is nothing but a sort of a nasty game aimed at tarnishing the image of our Republic and finding justification for sanctions and pressure campaign against the DPRK.