North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a plenary meeting of the Workers’ Party in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this undated photo released on February 12, 2021 by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA/via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

North Korea’s spy network suffered multiple setbacks following reports that hackers were caught trying to steal information about a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as a billion dollar’s worth of cash and cryptocurrency and information from Sony Pictures. 

South Korean intelligence services alerted U.S. officials that hackers tried to crack into Pfizer Inc. and steal information about the company’s coronavirus vaccine. South Korean authorities stated that the Pfizer hack was a part of a larger set of cyber attacks aimed at stealing vaccine data. Health experts have also hypothesized that North Korea may be attempting to sell the information rather than use it to develop its own vaccine since North Korea is slated to receive 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX program.

The Department of Justice also charged three North Korean hackers with attempting to steal $1.3 billion in cash and cryptocurrency from various companies and financial institutions, as well as a  2014 hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. The three men charged are Chang Hyok, Kim Il, and Park Jin Hyok, all of whom have been issued arrest warrants by the DOJ despite the fact that they are believed to be in North Korea. Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison stated, “The scope of the criminal conduct by the North Korean hackers was extensive and long-running and the range of crimes they have committed is staggering,” adding North Korea was reduced to stealing “to prop up its regime.”

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

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Contradicting claims fuel controversy over N. Korea’s cyberattack on Pfizer – Korea Biomedical Review – 2/17/2021
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has repeatedly insisted that the country has had no Covid-19 cases. North Korea has its borders with China closed since January last year in a national effort to prevent infection. It also has been restricting domestic traveling or movement.

South Korea Claims North Korea Tried Hacking Pfizer – Bank Info Security – 2/17/2021
North Korea has been accused of turning to an army of hackers “to fill its cash-strapped coffers” amid international sanctions that ban most international trade with it, Reuters reports. So, some health experts speculate that he country’s hackers appear more interested in selling the stolen data than using it to develop a homegrown vaccine.

North Korean hackers are ‘the world’s leading bank robbers,’ U.S. charges – Politico – 2/17/2021
The newly unsealed indictment, building on earlier charges against Park for his alleged role in Pyongyang’s cyberattacks, adds new information about multiple criminal schemes, including a series of breaches of banks targeting more than $1.2 billion; infections of ATMs with malware that allowed unlimited withdrawals; digital extortion schemes using ransomware; and the development and distribution of fake, malware-laden cryptocurrency apps that opened backdoors into victims’ computer networks.

North Korea ‘tried to hack’ Pfizer for COVID-19 vaccine – Al Jazeera – 2/17/2021
The North is also accused of a huge, $81m cyber-heist from the Bangladesh Central Bank, as well as the theft of $60m from Taiwan’s Far Eastern International Bank. Pyongyang’s hackers were also blamed for the 2017 WannaCry global ransomware cyberattack, which infected some 300,000 computers in 150 nations, encrypting user files and demanding hundreds of dollars from their owners for the keys to get them back.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

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