US, South Korea and Japan launch group to tackle North Korea hacking

The United States, South Korea and Japan have decided to establish a high-level consultative body on cyber issues, primarily to tackle North Korea’s cyber activities, the office of South Korea’s president announced on Monday.

The main purpose of the group, which will meet on a quarterly basis, is to strengthen “practical joint response capabilities to global cyber threats,” according to the presidential office’s announcement.

This includes “jointly preparing measures to block cyber activities that are abused as a major source of funds for North Korea’s weapons development, such as nuclear weapons and WMD.”

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Beyond the three countries, a senior South Korean national security official met with their counterpart from Australia to decide to form a bilateral working group to help identify common threats and coordinate the countries’ responses.

It follows the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in August attributing three recent hacks targeting cryptocurrency platforms to a threat actor believed to be sponsored by the North Korean government.

The FBI previously attributed the $100 million hack of Harmony’s Horizon bridge and the $600 million hack of Sky Mavis’ Ronin Bridge to the same North Korean hackers.

Blockchain research firm Chainalysis found that 2022 was a banner year for hackers targeting cryptocurrency firms, with about $3.8 billion in total stolen from companies in the industry, up from $3.3 billion in 2021.

Chainalysis noted that much of the hacking activity was led by groups associated with the North Korean military, which has prioritized cryptocurrency hacks in an effort to fund its nuclear weapons program.

Cyber cooperation among liberal democracies in the Pacific has picked up pace in recent years, partially in response to North Korean operations, but with a particular view on countering alleged widespread activity from Chinese actors.

The Biden administration last year announced a Quad Cybersecurity Partnership involving the U.S., India, Japan and Australia, that will see the countries work together on several initiatives centered around fortifying software, supply chains and user data.

The joint move was criticized heavily by Chinese officials, who told CNN that the U.S. was trying to stoke “geopolitical rivalry” with an “Indo-Pacific NATO.”

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Alexander Martin

Alexander Martin is the UK Editor for Recorded Future News. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.