WASHINGTON : Global banks are preparing to defend themselves from North Korea by potentially intensifying long-standing hacking in an attempt to cripple financial networks, as Pyongyang assesses the threat of US military action over its nuclear program, cyber security experts say.
North Korean hackers stole hundreds of millions of dollars from banks over the past three years, including the 2016 budget at Bangalosh Bank, which gave $ 81 million, according to Dmitry Alperovich, chief technology officer at the cyber security firm CrowdStrike.
Alperovitch told Reuters on Cyber Security Summit on Tuesday that banks are worried that Pyongyang’s hackers may become destructive using the same type of “crystal” viruses they deployed across South Korea and the Hollywood studio of Sony Corp. (6758.T).
The North Korean government has repeatedly denied accusations by security researchers and the US government that it is conducting cyber attacks.
North Korean hackers can use the knowledge of financial networks collected during cyber heists to disrupt banking operations, according to Alperovich, who said his company conducted “military game” exercises for several banks.
“The difference between theft and destruction is often several keyboards,” Alperovitch said.
Security teams in major US banks have shared information on North Korea’s cyber threat in recent months, a second cyber security expert has said.
“We know they have attacked South Korean banks,” the source said, adding that fears grew that banks in the US would be targeted by the next.
Tensions between Washington and Pyongyang are being built after a series of nuclear and missile tests by North Korea and belligerent verbal exchanges between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
John Carlin, a former Assistant US Attorney General, told Reuters summit that other companies, including defense contractors, retailers and social media, were also worried.
“They think:” Will we see the escalation of North Korean attacks? “Said Carlin, chairman of the global risk and crisis management team at the Morrison & Foerster International Legal Board.
Jim Lewis, a cyber-expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it was unlikely that North Korea would launch destructive attacks on US banks over concerns over US vengeance.
Representatives of the US Federal Reserve and the currency control office, the top US banking regulators, declined to comment. Both have increased cyber security surveillance in recent years.