North Korea has been cited by several governments and organizations for its hacking activities. Now, a new study of network data shows much of the technology North Korea employs for hacking comes from the U.S.
Despite trade sanctions, North Korea’s government has found a way to obtain products from Apple, Microsoft, and Korea-based Samsung to carry out cyberattacks around the world, researchers at cybersecurity intelligence company Recorded Future revealed on Wednesday. The company found that North Korea is using Windows 10, Apple’s iPhone X, and Samsung’s Galaxy S8 Plus, among other technologies, to conduct operations. However, most of the technology North Korea is using is older. For instance, Recorded Future found an iPhone 4S and Windows 7, among other products, still in use.
North Korea has been isolated from the rest of the world for decades. During that time, the country’s economy has suffered and the U.S., among others, has imposed sanctions that limit a company’s ability to export to and sell in North Korea.
To circumvent those sanctions, according to Recorded Future, North Korea has engaged in a variety of activities to obtain access to U.S. and Korean technologies.
In its report, Recorded Future said that North Korea has created fake addresses and names to sidestep sanctions — and also used shell companies and aliases outside of its borders to obtain equipment and bring it back. North Koreans living in countries where equipment from Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung can be obtained legally also play a role in the effort, according to the report.
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“Technology resellers, North Koreans abroad, and the Kim regime’s extensive criminal networks all facilitate the transfer of American technology for daily use by one of the world’s most repressive governments,” Recorded Future wrote in its report.
In other cases, however, North Korea has obtained equipment legally. Since 2002, in fact, the U.S. has exported nearly $484,000 in computers and electronics to North Korea.
But, since that’s hardly enough for all of the ruling party, hacking efforts, and “elites” in the country who need the technology, North Korea has employed the other schemes, Recorded Future said.
The data sheds some light on the secretive country and could explain to some degree how it’s been able to pull off some major cyberattacks. North Korea’s hackers have previously been linked to the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack that affected computers around the world. North Korea was also accused of hacking Sony in 2014.
“Unless there’s a globally unified effort to impose comprehensive sanctions on the DPRK, and multilateral cooperation to ensure that these sanctions cannot be thwarted by a web of shell companies,” Recorded Future wrote, “North Korea will be able to continue its cyberwarfare operations unabated with the aid of Western technology.”