Once the US midterm elections are over and the results are clear, certain actors will start to move. North Korea is no exception, as doctrinal changes and missile tests that began in January 2022 have escalated sharply.
The cryptocurrency funding aspect of these programs is interesting as troubles rise from Pyongyang towards the end of the year. Next week we will have more answers about how North Korea will clash with its neighbors.
Funding North Korea’s Dynamic Program is tricky. Over $300 million in cryptocurrency stolen. The $81 million cyber robbery from the Bangladesh Central Bank and the $60 million cyber robbery from Taiwan’s Far East International Bank stand out as two key examples of the scale of these North Korean operations. An Israeli cryptocurrency firm has become the latest target of North Korea’s alleged attempt to steal more cryptocurrencies.
North Korea’s cyber funding is also highly political and sends a strong message of capability. The first big example was in 2014. North Korea hacked Sony Pictures Entertainment in retaliation for the movie The Interview, causing economic and reputational damage. Around the same time, he spear-phished his message to other victims in the entertainment industry, including a cinema chain and a British company that was producing a fictional series about a British nuclear scientist held prisoner in North Korea. was doing.
In 2017, North Korea was behind the malware used in 2017’s WannaCry 2.0 global ransomware, which brought more cash to North Korea. Such operations were conducted through the Lazarus Group and the North Korean government front company Korea Expo Joint Venture, also known as Chosun Expo Joint Venture. Pyongyang is the best of the best when it comes to using cybercrime as a revenue stream to pay for dangerous and destabilizing weapon systems. When North Korea conducts nuclear tests, remember where the money came from.
Importantly, on the day of the U.S. midterm elections, the U.S. sanctioned privacy crypto exchange Tornado Cash against sanctioned entities, alleging that North Korea was using the service to support its weapons of mass destruction program. I made the wise move of redesignating it as North Korea has been funding its weapons program via crypto for years, much earlier than the rest of the illicit crypto ecosystem. Other countries are paying attention to Pyongyang’s forward-leaning cybercriminals.
More importantly, the US-ROK response to North Korea’s antics this year has been one of the most aggressive in years. Joint exercises, response, and formations including two B1 bombers are proving their power over Pyongyang. South Korean and U.S. fighters also conducted drills to bomb targets in the Yellow Sea in response, while U.S. and Japanese fighters conducted joint exercises in the Sea of Japan.
North Korean President Kim Jong Un is not one to give in to threats, even those from the US Secretary of Defense that North Korea will cease to exist. In North Korea’s leadership mindset, North Korea has become bolder for this athletic achievement, which has been an important year for Kim Jong-un.
Timing is everything on the Northeast Asian stage, especially from North Korea’s perspective. North Korea launched more than 30 missiles and hundreds of artillery shells last week after the North Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee secretary Park Jong-chon threatened. He strongly condemned the South Korea-US joint military exercises, saying, “The US and South Korea will know that they have made an irreversible and terrible mistake.” This warning has been received by policy makers and stakeholders.
Many observers have attempted to analyze his remarks as a threat of a nuclear test, while others believe Kim Jong-un is spending his time on this next detonation. It is believed that Kim Jong-un has nothing to lose by continuing his strategy of slow and gradual escalation before conducting any significant nuclear test or even a series of tests.
Indeed, with the midterm elections behind us and the momentum building, President Joe Biden met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol during a visit to Asia on how to deter North Korea’s nuclear program. We are going to discuss. Testing and cybercrime funding. Leaders are meeting in Cambodia for the ASEAN and 20 developed countries meeting. Biden may have met directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the North Korean nuclear issue. Interestingly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will also be attending. These important meetings are taking place at a time when North Korea is testing its nuclear weapons. So it looks like a showdown is on the horizon.
Overall, North Korea is using 2022 to maximize its ability as a nuclear power to launch missiles to strike targets from Guam to Hawaii and in between. The cybercrime dimension that helped build the capabilities we see today continues to require maximum policy focus at upcoming conferences in Southeast Asia.