November 17, 2022 12:02
North Korea is believed to have stolen more than US$1 billion in "cyber heists" using malware over the last two years, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas warned Tuesday.
These include attacks with ransomware, where a computer is paralyzed and users are prompted to pay a ransom in cryptocurrency if they want their data back. Many victims pay up even though computers are never restored.
In written testimony he submitted Tuesday to the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, Mayorkas said, "In the last two years alone, North Korea has largely funded its weapons of mass destruction programs through cyber heists of cryptocurrencies and hard currencies totaling more than $1 billion."
The North Korean regime has a dedicated hacking team including groups like Lazarus that steals cryptocurrencies to fund illegal development of weapons of mass destruction.
"Hostile nations like Russia, [China], Iran, North Korea, and cybercriminals around the world continue to sharpen their tactics and create more adverse consequences," Mayorkas warned. "Their ransomware attacks target our financial institutions, hospitals, pipelines, electric grids, and water treatment plants, attempting to wreak havoc on our daily lives."
Ransom demands in 2020 exceeded $1.4 billion in the U.S. alone, he added.
"They exploit the integrated global cyber ecosystem to sow discord, undermine democracy, and erode trust in our institutions, public and private," he said. "These cyber operations threaten the economic and national security of every American, and many others around the world."
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