The Cyber Bandit State

By Dennis Wilder

Dennis Wilder served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for East Asian Affairs during President George W. Bush's second term.  He is currently a Research Fellow at Georgetown University's Initiative for U.S-China Dialogue on Global Issues.

If confirmed, North Korea has perpetrated the first state-sponsored digital bank robbery in history.  It shows that North Korea is getting desperate and therefore that sanctions are working but at the same time that the international community must take additional steps to safeguard commerce and trade. 

According to the digital security firm Symantec, it has evidence that links North Korean online hackers to the theft of $81 million from the central bank of Bangladesh in February and to two lesser raids last year on commercial banks in the Philippines and Vietnam.  The attack on the central bank of Bangladesh would have been much worse if not for alert officials in other banks blocking suspicious transfers.  Pyongyang has refused comment on the issue, but Symantec says that the computer codes used by these hackers are identical to those used in the Sony Pictures attack of November 2014 in an attempt to block the release of the movie comedy about Kim Jungun called The Interview and those used on South Korean banks and media in 2013. US officials have laid both at Pyongyang’s doorstep.

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