In a major move against cybercrime, South Korea has announced its first independent sanctions related to cryptocurrency theft and cyberattacks against North Korean groups and individuals. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul has placed four individuals and seven businesses on a blacklist for their alleged involvement in the cyberattacks and cryptocurrency theft.
The move comes just hours after South Korea and the United States announced a joint cybersecurity venture against ransomware attacks. A joint cybersecurity alert was released by the National Intelligence Service of South Korea, in coordination with the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence organizations.
“North Korea’s hacking activities have reached a new level of severity,” stated the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “We will continue to closely monitor and counter North Korean hacking attempts and protect the safety of our people and assets.”
The four blacklisted individuals include Park Jin-hyok, who has been linked to the Lazarus Group in North Korea and is known for his involvement in the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017 and the cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014.
North Korean hackers have stolen virtual assets worth over $1.2 billion since 2017, including $626 million in 2022. A confidential United Nations report has revealed that North Korean hackers stole more crypto assets in 2022 than in any other year, with the theft amount being between $650 million and $1 billion.
“These cyber activities, connected to the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s military intelligence agency, are thought to be one of the country’s main sources of funding for its nuclear and missile programs,” added the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The sanctions against North Korean hackers and hacker groups are a significant step in the fight against cybercrime and a message to the rest of the world that such activities will not be tolerated.