The federal government says that thousands of IT workers who worked for U.S. companies sent millions of dollars in hidden wages to North Korea to help fund its ballistic missile program.
FBI and Department of Justice officials say that for years, thousands of IT workers who work for U.S. companies have quietly sent millions of dollars in their pay to North Korea to help with its ballistic missile program.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department said that North Korean IT workers sent to St. Louis and other cities in the U.S. to work online for companies had been using fake names to get the jobs. At a news meeting in St. Louis, FBI leaders said that the money they made went to the North Korean weapons program.
According to court documents, North Korea’s government sent thousands of skilled IT workers to live mostly in China and Russia so that companies in the U.S. and other places would think they were hiring them as freelancers who could work from home. Jay Greenberg, the special agent in charge of the FBI office in St. Louis, said that the workers paid Americans to use their home Wi-Fi networks to make it look like they were working in the U.S.
Greenberg said that any business that hired freelance IT workers “more than likely” hired someone who was apart of the plan. An FBI official said Thursday that the North Koreans made deals with businesses all over the United States and in some other countries.
“We can tell you that there are thousands of North Korea IT workers that are part of this,” spokeswoman Rebecca Wu said.
As part of the ongoing probe, the federal government said it had taken back $1.5 million and 17 domain names.
FBI agents said that the plan is so common that companies need to be extra careful when hiring people and may even need to make sure that interviewees can be seen on video.
Greenberg said in a news release, “At the very least, the FBI suggests that employers take extra steps with remote IT workers to make it harder for bad actors to hide their identities.”
The IT workers’ salaries brought in millions of dollars a year for North Korea’s weapons projects. The Justice Department said that some of the North Korean workers also broke into computer networks and stole data from the companies that hired them. The agency also said that they kept access open in case hackers or extortionists want to use it in the future.
The government didn’t say which companies hired North Koreans without knowing it, when it started happening, or how inspectors found out about it. But the federal government has known about the plan for a while.
In May 2022, the State Department, the Department of the Treasury, and the FBI warned of North Koreans who were trying “to obtain employment while posing as non-North Korean nationals.” The advisory said that Kim Jong Un’s government “has placed increased focus on education and training” in IT-related areas over the past few years.
In his role as head of threat intelligence at the cybersecurity company Mandiant, John Hultquist said that North Korea has been using IT workers to help pay for its weapons program for more than ten years. The COVID-19 pandemic gave the program a boost, though.
“I think the world after COVID has opened up a lot more doors for them because working from home and freelancing are much more normal in business now than they were before,” Hultquist said.
Hultquist said that North Korea also uses people who work in other fields to send money back to the weapons program, but tech workers are a better source of money because they make more.
Since the beginning of 2022, North Korea has test-fired more than 100 missiles, which has made things very tense on the Korean Peninsula. In response, the United States has increased military drills with its Asian allies.
In the past few years, the Justice Department has been trying to find and stop a wide range of criminal plots that aim to support the North Korean government and its nuclear weapons program.
In 2016, four Chinese people and a trading company were charged in the U.S. with using front companies to get around bans that were meant to stop North Korea from working on nuclear weapons and ballistics.
The US Justice Department charged three North Korean computer coders and members of the government’s military intelligence agency with hacking into many computers around the world. The hackers were said to have been ordered to do so by the regime. At the time, law enforcement officials said that the prosecution focused on how North Korea’s criminal hacking was done to make money. This is different from other hostile countries like Russia, China, and Iran, which are more interested in spying, stealing intellectual property, or even upsetting democracy.
The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, called for a huge increase in the production of nuclear weapons in September. He also wanted his country to play a bigger part in a group of countries that would fight the US in a “new Cold War,” according to state media.
In February, experts from the UN said that North Korean hackers working for the government stole record-breaking amounts of virtual goods worth between $630 million and more than $1 billion in 2017. A group of experts said in a report that hackers got into digital networks used for cyberfinance and stole information from governments, individuals, and businesses that could help North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The hackers used more and more advanced methods to do this.
- The Lives Of TCS Employees Are Now In Trouble When The Company Declares Bankruptcy And Suffers Losses Of 80,000 Crores.
- This IT Company Loses Billions In Data From Millions Of People Via Hackers.