North Korea’s rising ambition seen in bid to breach global banks

When hackers associated with North Korea tried to break into Polish banks late last year they left a trail of information about their apparent intentions to steal money from more than 100 organizations around the world, according to security researchers. A list of internet protocol addresses, which was supplied by the security researchers and analyzed by The New York Times, showed that the hacking targets included institutions like the World Bank, the European Central Bank and big American companies including Bank of America. While some of the Polish banks took the hackers’ bait, the scheme was detected fairly quickly, and there is no evidence that any money was stolen from the intended targets. Yet security researchers said the hit list, found embedded in the code of the attack on more than 20 Polish banks, underlines how sophisticated the capabilities of North Korean hackers have become. Their goals have now turned financial, along with efforts to spread propaganda and heist data and to disrupt government and news websites in countries considered enemies. The list of targets, which has not been previously reported, is part of a growing body of evidence showing how North Korea, a country that is cut off from much of the global economy, is increasingly trying to use its cyberattack abilities to bring in cash — and making progressively bolder attempts to do so. North Korea’s hacking network is immense, encompassing a group of 1,700 hackers aided by more than 5,000 trainers, supervisors and others in supporting roles, South Korean officials estimate. Because of the country’s poor infrastructure, the hackers typically work abroad, in places like China, Southeast Asia and Europe. Like other North Koreans allowed to work abroad, the hackers are constantly monitored by minders for possible breaches in allegiance to the government.