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Topic: US seizes stolen funds from suspected North Korean hackers

US seizes stolen funds from suspected North Korean hackers


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The US Department of Justice has seized $500,000 (£417,000) worth of Bitcoin from suspected North Korean hackers.

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The hackers attacked healthcare providers with a new strain of ransomware, extorting the funds from several organisations.

US authorities say they have already returned ransom payments to two hospital groups.

The rare successful seizure comes as US authorities warn that North Korea is becoming a major ransomware threat.

In a conference on Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco praised an unnamed Kansas hospital for alerting the FBI early about the ransomware attack.

"Not only did this allow us to recover their ransom payment as well as a ransom paid by previously unknown victims, but we were also able to identify a previously unidentified ransomware strain," she said.


Hackers targeted hospital
According to court documents, hackers used the ransomware strain called Maui to encrypt the files and servers of a medical centre in Kansas in May 2021.

Typically, ransomware hackers will use malicious software to scramble data or lock users out of the system until a ransom is paid.

The Kansas hospital spent a week not being able to access its IT systems, then decided to pay approximately $100,000 in Bitcoin to regain the use of its computers and equipment.

It is not illegal to pay hacker ransoms, but it is discouraged by law enforcement organisations around the world.


How seizure happened
It is not known how the FBI was able to seize the funds but Tom Robinson, founder and chief scientist of Elliptic, which analyses Bitcoin payments, told the BBC the seizure may have come about as the hackers tried to exchange their Bitcoin to traditional currency.

"It's likely that the investigators were able to trace the cryptocurrency to an exchange platform, where the launderers would have sent the funds in order to cash out. Exchanges are regulated businesses and can seize their customers' funds if compelled to do so by law enforcement," he said.

"Another possibility is that the cryptocurrency was seized directly from the launderers' own wallet. This is more challenging to do as it would require access to the wallet's private key - a passcode that allows cryptocurrency in a wallet to be accessed and moved."

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Re: US seizes stolen funds from suspected North Korean hackers

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