By Dain Oh, The Readable
Aug. 10, 2022 8:06PM KST
South Korean and U.S. government officials met in Washington D.C. on Tuesday to augment coordination against North Korean cyber threats. A day before the meeting, the U.S. government put sanctions on a virtual currency mixer, Tornado Cash, which is allegedly abused as a money laundering program by North Korean hackers.
According to a press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea, the first working group meeting between South Korea and the U.S. on North Korean cyber threats was held in Washington D.C. on August 9. Lee Tae-woo, Director-general for North Korean nuclear affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea, and Dr. Jung Pak, Deputy Special Representative for North Korea from the U.S. Department of State, attended the meeting. Other government officials of the two countries in charge of the nuclear, cyber, and cryptocurrency issues regarding North Korea also participated in the discourse.
“The two sides reached a common understanding that close coordination between the two countries is crucial to block the DPRK’s attempts to generate hard currency for its nuclear and missile programs through overseas information technology workers and cryptocurrency heists,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea said through the press release. In addition, the representatives discussed cooperative procedures to address illicit cyber activities by North Korea. The second working group meeting will be held in Seoul within the year.
The meeting was organized as a subsequent discussion, followed by the joint statement which was released after the two nations’ first bilateral summit took place on May 21. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and U.S. President Joe Biden, through the statement, promised to “significantly expand cooperation to confront a range of cyber threats from the DPRK, including but not limited to, state-sponsored cyberattacks.” The two leaders mentioned cyber 10 times throughout the statement, while referring to “cooperation on deterring cyber adversaries, cybersecurity of critical infrastructure, combatting cybercrime and associated money laundering, securing cryptocurrency and blockchain applications, capacity building, cyber exercises, information sharing, military-to-military cyber cooperation, and other international security issues in cyberspace.”
On August 8, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced that they put sanctions on Tornado Cash. According to a press release by the department, Tornado Cash is a virtual currency mixer which has been used to launder more than $7 billion worth of virtual currency since its creation in 2019. The department stressed that the trades include over $455 million stolen by the Lazarus Group, a North Korean state-sponsored hacking group.
Dain Oh is an award-winning cybersecurity journalist based in South Korea and the founding editor-in-chief of The Readable by S2W. Before joining S2W, she worked as a reporter for The Electronic Times, the top IT newspaper in Korea, covering the cybersecurity industry on an in-depth level. She reported numerous exclusive stories, and her work related to the National Intelligence Service led to her being honored with the Journalist of the Year Award in 2021 by the Korea Institute of Information Security and Cryptology in a unanimous decision. She was also the first journalist to report on the hacking of vulnerable wallpads in South Korean apartments, which later became a nation-wide issue.