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NK cyberattacks mainly target bank raids: US official

Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang. (AFP-Yonhap)
Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang. (AFP-Yonhap)
North Korea engages in cyberattacks to primarily steal money from banks, a senior US Justice Department official said Thursday.

“They’ve used it really to steal banks and money. That’s not really the behavior we see from China or Russia or even Iran despite the Iran sanctions,” John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, told a webinar hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He added, “North Korea is kind of unique in that way,” referring to the bank heist campaign by the cash-strapped regime.

Demers noted that China supports the North through “sharing expertise and training.”

But China would not agree to work with the US to probe the hacking program because Beijing does not want to see Pyongyang fail, and that is the single biggest hurdle in slapping sanctions on the North, according to Demers.

The senior official also discussed how the US government was going about countering the cyberattacks through “calling out the activity” and educating the public and other countries about its responses to the hacking and other illegal activities.

In last August, multiples US federal agencies issued a joint alert on the hacker group BeagleBoyz, saying the North had resumed its bank heist campaign, ending a monthlong lull in the activity.

North Korea is believed to be sponsoring the group to bankroll its nuclear and missile programs as the communist regime struggles to circumvent the UN-led sanctions.

By Choi Si-young (