July 28 (UPI) -- North Korean hackers are increasingly targeting vulnerable foreign financial institutions, seeking to convert their Internet espionage efforts into a cash cow, according to cybersecurity experts.
A new report by the South Korea-based Financial Security Institute said North Korean hackers were behind the online theft of $81 million from the central bank of Bangladesh. Internet security experts also said they were able to trace the attempted hacking of Polish banks to hackers in North Korea. Evidence in that case suggested the reclusive communist regime was plotting more than 100 other potential ecommerce robberies, The New York Times reported.
North Korean hackers were also believed to be a part of the global "WannaCry" cyberattack that crippled Britain's healthcare industry and forced major companies to pay ransom in order to have their computer systems unlocked, the BBC said.
The tactic marks a shift from previous hacking attempts by North Korea that did not have a clear economic benefit for the Kim regime. Instead, North Korean hackers mostly targeted institutions to garner secrets from businesses and governments and foster uncertainty. The most notable North Korean hack of that nature was against Sony in 2014.
As international sanctions over its nuclear weapons program continue to pound the North Korean economy, the government of Kim Jong Un has been forced to turn to hacking as a means of generating foreign cash supplies to pay for imports that support its failing domestic economy.