[WASHINGTON, DC] – Ahead of President Trump’s visit to Asia later this week – including stops in China, Japan, and South Korea – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) led a bipartisan group of thirteen Senators in urging U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Nikki Haley to work with members of the UN Security Council to pass a resolution to more aggressively deter and punish North Korea’s cyberattacks. While the UN has repeatedly condemned North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, the country’s regime continues to reap substantial revenue from cyberattacks around the world.
“Recent estimates indicate that North Korea’s cyberattacks provide the North Korean government with as much as $1 billion per year – a staggering figure equivalent to one-third of the country’s exports,” wrote the Senators. “North Korea’s ransomware attacks and cyber-attacks on banks around the world are producing funding streams that we must cut off immediately. Tough rhetoric must be backed up by practical measures that make it clear to North Korea that their behavior cannot continue…we must do more to confront those countries who enable North Korea and incentivize them to crack down on North Korean hackers and prevent access to their networks.”
Blumenthal pressed the Department of Defense, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security about what they are doing to address North Korean cyberattacks and resulting revenue earlier this month at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on cyber threats. His questioning can be found here.
Today’s letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), John Barrasso (R-WY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ted Cruz (R-TX), David Perdue (R-GA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Bill Nelson (D-FL).
The full text of the Senators’ letter is available for download here, and copied below.
Dear Ambassador Haley:
We write to urge you to continue expanding efforts to hold North Korea accountable with the international community through the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). As a permanent member of the UNSC, the United States plays a leading role in developing and passing increasingly stronger resolutions to restrict North Korea’s exports in an effort to exact international economic pressure on this rogue regime for its nuclear ambitions. While these resolutions continue to make it more difficult for North Korea to fund its nuclear program, we must also consider lucrative funding streams beyond its exports, including revenue it reaps from cyberattacks. Of the eight UNSC resolutions related to North Korea passed since 2006, none have specifically addressed its use of cyberattacks that wreak international havoc. As such, we urge you to work with members of the UNSC to pass a resolution to more aggressively deter and punish North Korea’s cyberattacks in order to cut off this illicit funding stream.
Recent estimates indicate that North Korea’s cyberattacks provide the North Korean government with as much as $1 billion per year – a staggering figure equivalent to one-third of the country’s exports. North Korea’s ransomware attacks and cyberattacks on banks around the world are producing funding streams that we must cut off immediately. Tough rhetoric must be backed up by practical measures that make it clear to North Korea that their behavior cannot continue. North Korean hackers often operate from abroad, notably in China as they rely on its internet structure. As such, we must do more to confront those countries who enable North Korea and incentivize them to crack down on North Korean hackers and prevent access to their networks.
As the targets of these attacks and the impacts of these heists reverberate around the world, the international community must work together to combat them. For instance, last year the Lazarus Group, a North Korean-linked cybercrime ring, stole $81 million from a Bangladesh Central Bank account at the New York Federal Reserve, which would have been $1 billion except for a spelling error. They have been tied to the WannaCry attack earlier this year that impacted over 200,000 victims in 150 countries, as well as the Sony attack in 2014. Last month they were also linked to a $60 million theft from a Taiwanese bank. Without stronger condemnation and efforts to limit North Korea’s cyber abilities, these attacks will continue unabated.
As a world leader, the United States must do everything in its power to choke off any flow of funding to North Korea to prevent it from advancing its nuclear weapons program. As the international community has begun to unite its position on this issue, we urge you to use this opportunity to identify and address cyber concerns in an effort to more aggressively pursue North Korea’s finances. We look forward to working with you on this important national security issue.