US federal authorities have indicted three North Korean computer hackers for conducting a series of cyberattacks including attempts to steal and extort more than $1.3bn in cash and cryptocurrency.
The hackers, who are part of a North Korean military intelligence agency, are also accused of creating a blockchain platform to get investors to unknowingly fund North Korean cargo ships with cryptocurrency as a way to evade US sanctions.
According to the Department of Justice, one of the hackers named Kim Il was involved in creating a digital token called Marine Chain Token, which would allow investors to buy fractional ownership in cargo ships, thereby hiding the fact that the vessels were owned and controlled by North Korea.
The hackers are said to have targeted hundreds of cryptocurrency companies, stealing tens of millions dollars worth of cryptocurrency as part of the scheme.
“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,” said Tracy Wilkinson, the acting US Attorney for the Central District of California.