Brace Yourself for More North Korean Hacks

A feud fiscal between North Korea and China will likely impact U.S. enterprises

Mounting tension between China and North Korea is expected to ignite many more data breaches. And the U.S. may get roped into it, too.

This past weekend, China shut off all North Korean coal imports for the rest of the year, reports CNN. Its decision comes on the eve of the assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother—a friend to Beijing leaders, living in Macau under Chinese protection—and soon after North Korea’s recent, controversial ballistic missile test.

This move is also being perceived as a signal from China that they’re willing to work with the Trump administration.

In retaliation, North Korea will probably turn to cybercrime, says Time magazine. “North Korea already has an elite squad of 6,800 state hackers who are engaged in global fraud, blackmail and online gambling,” they write, “together generating an estimated annual revenue of $860 million.”

(For what it’s worth, China has a record of attacking private enterprises in the U.S. But such activities have sharply declined, after former President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a cyber-attack agreement in 2015.)

Two years ago, Sony Entertainment Pictures’ email breach gave the U.S. firsthand experience in what North Korean hackers are capable of. Yet that incident was merely disruptive. When financially motivated, the North Koreans can be formidable thieves: Last year, the regime was behind an almost-successful $81 billion bank heist in Bangladesh, curbed only after they stole hundreds of millions.

This year, North Korea will likely target the U.S. and China, among others, to make up for lost income in wake of the ban. Coal is the country’s primary export, and China was its biggest customer.

Additionally, warns Time, “Hacks are especially likely to ramp up as Pyongyang searches for ways to fund the final stage of its quest for a nuclear-armed ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland…. An atomic bomb is considered a trump card by Pyongyang that will guarantee the regime’s survival, and Kim Jong Un will pull out all the stops to get over the final hurdle.”

Although this may be a dispute between Nation States, private companies should prepare to get caught in the middle. Because bovernment servers may hold the secrets, but enterprises generate the money.