The National Intelligence Service (NIS) of South Korea estimated that the nation incurred approximately 1,000 trillion won worth of damages due to North Korea’s cyberattack. Given that North Korea launched cyberattacks such as hacking along with nuclear tests in the past, the NIS anticipates that North Korea is likely to launch a large-scale cyberattack preceding and following the seventh nuclear test, which is reported to be imminent.
Baek Jong-wook, third director of the NIS, said in a press conference held on Thursday that when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un implied the need for cyberattacks, hackers working for the regime started undertaking operations. “Since Kim demonstrated several key national security agenda in January last year, including supersonic missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), nuclear submarine, and development of spy assets, there have been attempts of stealing information about nuclear energy, defense industry, and spy assets, which are necessary for the North Korean regime’s achievement of becoming a nuclear weapons state," an NIS official said.
According to the NIS, there were over 1.18 million hacking attempts from abroad in the last month alone. Against this backdrop, the NIS opened the national cyber security center, a private-public joint task force, on Nov. 30 to respond to cyberattacks, where both governmental organizations, such as the NIS, the Ministry of Science and ICT, the Ministry of Defense, and private businesses in the IT security industry, including AhnLab Inc, East Security, S2W, and Chainalysis, work together.
The NIS said North Korea is profiting from hacking financial institutions, stealing virtual assets, and disseminating ransomware it uses to make threats. The North Korean cyberattack earned the regime a considerable amount of money, amounting to more than 800 billion won globally. The UN sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear weapons test and firing of ballistic missiles dealt a heavy blow to the regime’s economy, which is why North Korea is making all-out efforts to earn dollars through hacking. A growing popularity of the investment in virtual assets made state-sponsored hackers launch a cyberattack on virtual assets.
“Since last year, the North Korean regime has been using blockchain technology to launch a cyberattack on DeFi platforms, where there is no intervention from the government or traditional banks,” the NIS official said. According to the NIS, assets deposited in DeFi platforms increased from 16 billion dollars at the end of 2020 to 219 billion dollars as of April this year. The NIS projected that North Korea would expand its cyberattack surfaces to “Web 3.0” platforms, such as NFT and metaverse.
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