Cyberwarfare / Nation-State Attacks , Fraud Management & Cybercrime , Geo Focus: Asia

US, Korea and Japan Team Up to Fight DPRK Cyberattacks

North Koreans Stole $2.3 Billion in Crypto Assets to Fund WMD Program
US, Korea and Japan Team Up to Fight DPRK Cyberattacks
Anne Neuberger, U.S. deputy national security adviser, with Japanese and Korean government officials in Washington, D.C. (Source: Office of the President of the Republic of Korea)

The U.S., South Korea and Japan will put establish a high-level cyber consultative body to strengthen their joint cyber capabilities to deter North Korea from using cyber activities to fund its weapons development program.

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Anne Neuberger, U.S. deputy national security adviser, consulted with key security leaders from Japan and South Korea in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 31 to finalize details of the trilateral body that will convene once every three months.

"The main purpose is to strengthen the three countries' practical joint response capabilities to global cyber threats," South Korea's National Security Office announced on Monday. The three nations will jointly prepare "measures to block cyber activities that are abused as a major source of funds for North Korea's weapons development, such as nuclear weapons and WMD," it said.

The U.S., South Korea and Japan first announced their joint decision to set up a high-level cyber consultative body to counter North Korean cyber activities in a summit held at Camp David in August.

"We announce the establishment of a new trilateral working group to drive our cooperation, including with the international community, to combat DPRK cyber threats and block its cyber-enabled sanctions evasion," the White House said. "Japan, the ROK and the United States remain committed to reestablishing dialog with the DPRK with no preconditions."

South Korea in February sanctioned several North Korean organizations and individuals for conducting illegal cyber activities to finance the totalitarian regime's nuclear and missile development programs. Seoul said such North Korean entities stole virtual currency, conducted ransomware attacks and obtained IT work at front companies using fake documents to raise funds (see: South Korea Sanctions Pyongyang Hackers).

U.S. and South Korean agencies in October highlighted yet again how North Korea had used thousands of IT workers to win hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of IT contract work from overseas companies and then used the money to fund its weapons development program (see: North Korea Taps IT Contract Workers to Fund Weapons Program).

According to blockchain analysis firm Elliptic, state-sponsored North Korean actors stole approximately $2.3 billion in crypto assets between May 2017 and May 2023. About 30% of that money came from Japan.

The National Security Office said one of its key officials met with Australian National Cyber Security Coordinator Darren Goldie on Oct. 30, and the two countries have agreed to set up a working group to identify common threats and coordinate their responses.

"In order to make this concrete, it was decided to quickly form a working group between Korea and Australia to discuss cooperation measures, including the scope and targets of cooperation, composition of the working group, and schedule," the agency said.


About the Author

Jayant Chakravarti

Jayant Chakravarti

Senior Editor, APAC

Chakravarti covers cybersecurity developments in the Asia-Pacific region. He has been writing about technology since 2014, including for Ziff Davis.




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