Treasury Department Implements Sanctions on North Korean Cyber Groups
The department announced the sanctions Friday after it said that North Korean intelligence groups targeted American critical infrastructure, particularly the financial system.
- By Haley Samsel
- Sep 17, 2019
On Friday, the Treasury Department announced it will implement sanctions targeting three North Korean cyber intelligence groups for targeting U.S. critical infrastructure.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which is housed within the department, said that the Lazarus Group and two of its subsidiaries, Bluenoroff and Andariel, are responsible for “
“North Korea’s malicious cyber activity” on American agencies. The groups fall underneath the RGB, North Korea’s primary intelligence bureau, the OFAC said in a statement.
“Treasury is taking action against North Korean hacking groups that have been perpetrating cyber attacks to support illicit weapon and missile programs,” Sigal Mandelker, the under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement. “We will continue to enforce existing U.S. and UN sanctions against North Korea and work with the international community to improve cybersecurity of financial networks.”
In an explanation of the sanctions, the department said that the Lazarus Group was created as early as 2008 to target institutions like the military and the financial, manufacturing, publishing, media and international shipping industries. The U.S. and other countries that were targeted as part of the WannaCry 2.0 ransomware attack in 2017 have long believed that the hacking group carried out the attack.
Now, American citizens and residents are banned from doing business with the cyber groups. Lazarus and its subsidiaries are also blocked from accessing any property within the U.S., according to The Hill.
Altogether, OFAC estimates that the three groups likely stole $571 million in cryptocurrency between January 2017 and September 2018 as part of a government campaign to hack into cryptocurrency exchanges and use the funds for weapons programs. Blueneroff has allegedly attempted to steal about $1.1 billion from banks around the world, including countries like Mexico, India, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and Pakistan.
The agency said that the sanctions are part of its larger plan to combat North Korean cyber threats. OFAC has been working with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the U.S. Cyber Command to better “protect the U.S. financial system and other critical infrastructure” and improve global security, the agency said.
OFAC’s action and another effort to disclose malware samples to private cybersecurity companies are examples of a “government-wide approach to defending and protecting against an increasing North Korean cyber threat,” the statement reads.
Rep. Jim Langevin, who chairs the House Armed Services subcommittee on intelligence and emerging threats and capabilities, applauded the sanctions and said the U.S. must “take action to hold irresponsible states accountable.”
“Malicious cyber actors around the world need to know that they cannot act with impunity and that the United States will use all instruments of national power to counter their activity,” he said in a statement.