Nation state cybercrime is a bigger threat than you might think

With cybercrime reported as a primary means of revenue for North Korea, experts are highlighting that nation state cybercrime is more of a threat to businesses than many currently think…

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North Korea is using revenue from cybercrime to prop up its economy, as it provides a way around the economic sanctions the regime faces. This is the finding of a report published by cybersecurity firm Venafi this summer.

According to the report’s author, former Israeli intelligence operative Yana Blachman, there are estimates that the regime has generated profits of up to US$1bn a year from cybercrime, and its success in this area could lead to other rogue states following suit.

North Korea may care more about its ability to monetise cybercrime than Russia, China or Iran, with its capabilities development and deployment often skewed towards the types of attacks that generate funds, but it’s important to remember that this income is a secondary benefit of an inevitable capability.

This is the view of Brian Lord, CEO of Protection Group International (PGI), and past deputy director for Intelligence and Cyber Operations at GCHQ.

“North Korea – like all states – develops offensive cyber capabilities in order to facilitate a geopolitical effect and be able to measure its ability to impact adversaries,” he points out. “Large scale ransomware and financial crime are two of the tools available to states which operate more indiscriminately. They’re sometimes chosen either because they have the secondary benefit of generating some revenue, and/or they can create a fig leaf of deniability for states as the attacks look criminal in nature. However, they’re used first and foremost as disruptive tools.”

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