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Biden admin warns of North Korean infiltration in tech sector

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The Biden administration warns that IT workers skilled in developing dating apps and mobile games could actually be North Koreans infiltrating the tech sector to benefit its weapons and missile programs. their country.

The FBI, State Department and Treasury Department issued a joint advisory statement this week saying North Korea has sent thousands of highly skilled workers to North America, Europe and East Asia to to earn money for the regime’s weapons and missile programs. Insiders also “used privileged access gained as contractors to enable [North Korea’s] malicious cyber intrusions.

“In many cases, [North Korean] IT workers present themselves as U.S.-based and/or non-North Korean telecommuters, the notice said. “Workers can further obscure their identity and/or location by outsourcing work to non-North Koreans.”

The technicians come from North Korean entities responsible for research and development of nuclear and conventional weapons, including General Office 313 of the Munitions Industry Department (MID) and the Ministry of Energy Industry. atomic; as well as government offices focused on commerce, technology, science and education.

Stealth technology workers targeted the development of dating applications, online gaming programs, mobile and web applications, mobile games, general computer support, artificial intelligence applications, programming virtual reality and augmented reality, facial recognition technology and hardware development, among other things, according to the notice.

North Korean IT professionals “can individually earn more than $300,000 a year in some cases, and teams of IT professionals can collectively earn more than $3 million a year,” the notice said. “A significant percentage of their gross income supports [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s] priorities”, including obtaining weapons of mass destruction.

Workers often introduce themselves as Chinese, Eastern European, Japanese, South Korean and American telecommuters. They are located primarily in China and Russia, with a smaller contingent in Africa and Southeast Asia.

As an example of how the North Koreans concealed their work, the notice cited Yanbian Silverstar Network Technology Co., which was supposedly a Chinese IT company but was actually owned and controlled by North Koreans. The company, sanctioned by the United States in 2018, has also created a Russia-based shell company known as Volasys Silver Star.

The Biden administration said “red flag” indicators of suspected workers include inconsistencies in the spelling of their names, nationality, place of employment, contact information, educational and work history, and other details in their social media profiles and the independent developer platform and portfolio. websites.

The US government has warned that the potential legal consequences of supporting workers would include violations of US sanctions.

“All [North Korean] Computer scientists make money to support the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,” the notice said. “The vast majority of them are subordinate to and work on behalf of entities directly involved in [Pyongyang’s] WMD and ballistic missile programs banned by the UN, as well as its advanced sectors of conventional arms development and trade.