The North Korean ATM hacking debachel brings to mind a movie. When he’s not taking off his shirt, Tom Cruise is actually a decent actor who’s played some great roles in some great movies. One example is the 2014 hit Edge of Tomorrow (also known by its alternate name Live.Die.Repeat.), in which Cruise starred alongside Emily Blunt. The premise of the movie is simple and, to be frank, overused. An alien race has overwhelmed earth and is at the brink of extinction. Major William Cage (Cruise) is sent to the front lines to battle the enemy despite his lack of combat experience. On his first day of battle Cage kills an alien and is covered in its blood. Cage dies, but oddly enough, when he wakes up, he finds himself in training like the prior day. Cage goes into battle again and dies, again, yet wakes up at exactly the same spot–call it a horrible case of deja vu.
In the real world, nations experience deja vu all the time. As the famous quote goes, “Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.” And while they’re not exactly an alien race–to be sure, their leader is certifiably insane– the North Korean government finds itself in another one of these deja vu situations. No, not with the so-called Korean Missile Crisis–this time it relates to North Korean ATM hacking and bank fraud. In a familiar story, North Korea is once again making headlines for bank hacking and fraud, representing yet another breach of cyber security and violation of personal liberty.
Why is This So Familiar?
In June of last year, North Korea was accused of “hacking into more than 140,000 computers used by South Korea’s government in order to plant malware.” In December of the same year, just a mere six months later, it was accused of attacking South Korea’s military Cyber Command. And sure enough, just three months later, police launched an investigation concerning North Korea’s role in a string of over 60 hacked ATMs. According to reports, the hackers involved are linked with the Kim regime and are known to focus on ATMs. However, the hackers aren’t cybersecurity experts, labeled by some security experts as “an ‘organised crime ring’ [rather] than a sophisticated group.” In many ways, this cyber attack comes as no surprise. The MO of the organization is simple–they hack into ATM machines, plant malware to steal financial information, and then sell the information to the highest bidder on the black market–oftentimes making decent money. In this case, the North Korean ATM hacking group was able to steal over 230,000 financial records, netting 102.6 million won, the equivalent of just over $90,000.
Suspects are Apprehended
Yonhap, South Korea’s largest news agency, reported that three South Koreans and one Korean-Chinese national were apprehended by South Korean authorities. Though formal allegations have yet to be set forth, these four are suspected to have played a part in the cyber security breach. Though personal details have yet to fully emerge–all that is known is that one of the suspects is a 29 year old male with the surname Cho–police hope to have more information in the coming days. With the help of international agencies and forces, South Korean authorities hope to gain more information regarding the North Korean ATM hacking attacks, in hopes of prosecuting the perpetrators and also gaining insight into how to prevent future attacks. For the time being, ATM users and banks ought to be aware of the current threats, lest they too fall prey to the North Korean deja vu.