North Korea claims the U.S. is the cyber bank robberNorth Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday called the United States a "mastermind of cybercrime" as it responded to a report detailing Pyongyang's efforts to hack banks.
In an English-language statement posted on the ministry’s website, a spokesperson for the country’s "National Coordination Committee for Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism" denied the regime’s link to any online criminal activities, claiming there was no truth to the “preposterous rumors” circulated by the United States.
The U.S. Treasury Department and three federal agencies including the FBI said in an alert issued Wednesday that hackers attempted to initiate fraudulent money transfers and ATM "cash-outs" from multiple countries that appeared to be part of the North's "extensive, global cyber-enabled bank robbery scheme."
The group responsible for the acts was identified as “BeagleBoyz,” according to the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). It is believed to be one of many teams controlled by North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau to undertake cybercrimes globally.
Such illicit activities generate substantial revenue, which could be used for building nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles banned by United Nations resolutions, the alert said.
North Korea, in response, said it was its "consistent position" to "oppose every form and shape of criminal acts in cyberspace, and the integrated and [that] consolidated legal and institutional mechanisms are put in place in our country in order to prevent and eradicate cybercrime of all forms and manifestations."
Pyongyang accused Washington of hypocrisy for running what it claimed was the "world's largest cyberwar force" and abusing the internet to wage unfettered cyber warfare against foreign countries.
An "internet surveillance plan" run by the U.S. National Security Agency called "Prism" testified to such actions, the North claimed, referring to comments made by Edward Snowden.
"Nowadays, banking institutions of several countries are suffering tremendous losses from a large-scale cyberattack, and it should be duly doubted if it has been done by the United States, which is now bogged down in a serious economic crisis," the statement said.
The North's National Coordination Committee for Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism is believed to be operated under its Financial Intelligence Agency, founded in 2016 to monitor suspicious financial activities in line with the country's domestic laws.
In 2018, the regime further passed a law against money laundering and funding terrorist activities abroad, launching a website for the Financial Intelligence Agency in October that year to underscore its efforts to fight such crimes.
Analysts in South Korea said such moves appeared to aim at dispelling widespread accusations that the regime was engaging in such activities and persuading the international community to lift economic sanctions against the country.
But such demonstrations have had little effect in convincing the United States. In May, the U.S. Justice Department filed criminal charges against two dozen North Korean bankers for laundering some $2.5 billion. Pyongyang also remains on the U.S. State Department’s state sponsors of terrorism list after U.S. President Donald Trump reinstated the country on that list in 2017.
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [email@example.com]
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