Sanctions imposed by the United States have been cited as a potential incentive that saw North Korea use hackers to launch various attacks targeting cryptocurrency.
The claims have reportedly been attributed to a senior official at the FBI, who told a conference that the North Korean regime was behind some of the biggest cyberattacks witnessed in recent times.
The Korea Herald quotes Tonya Ugoretz as saying that financial strain has forced Pyongyang to institute a team of state actors that run a cybercrime syndicate.
Ugoretz is FBI’s deputy assistant director in charge of the cyber division and made the comments at an Aspen Institute event, the publication says.
Reports of Pyongyang being behind a spate of attacks targeting cryptocurrency exchanges and other crypto providers have increased over the years. Some of the attacks have also been noted to be ransomware-related.
The allegations against North Korea include attacks at a global level, like the WannaCry ransomware attack that affected hundreds of thousands of users around the world. There have also been reports that Pyongyang actors were behind recent hacks on cryptocurrency exchanges in neighboring South Korea.
Ugoretz noted that “sanctions [were] having an economic impact,” and thus turning to cyber operations provided the country with avenues of making money. The intelligence official added that the attacks could be via “cryptocurrency mining or bank theft.”
Her sentiments were supported by Erin Joe, the director of the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC). He noted that the FBI was determined to deter attacks and other malicious activities in the crypto space.
The comments by the FBI officials come at a time when debates have emerged on how some nations are looking to use cryptocurrencies to evade sanctions. Some of the states include Venezuela, Iran, and Russia.