The United States and South Korea issued a cybersecurity alert about North Korean hacker group Kimursky Friday, claiming it has used spearphishing attacks to steal sensitive data. Seoul also issued unilateral sanctions against the group. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL, June 2 (UPI) -- The United States and South Korea issued a joint cybersecurity advisory Friday about a North Korean hacker group that Seoul claims stole technology used in the North's failed satellite launch attempt this week.
South Korea also slapped unilateral sanctions on the hacker organization, known as Kimsuky, its Foreign Ministry announced Friday.
Kimusky targets experts in the foreign policy, security and defense fields for intelligence gathering, according to the ministry.
The hacker organization has been "directly or indirectly involved in the development of North Korea's so-called 'satellites' by stealing advanced technologies related to weapons development and satellites and space from all over the world," the statement said.
North Korea attempted to launch what it claimed was its Malligyong-1 military reconnaissance satellite on Wednesday, but the rocket splashed into the Yellow Sea when it lost thrust after its first stage separated.
The White House condemned the launch, saying it "involved technologies that are directly related to the DPRK intercontinental ballistic missile program."
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.
The chiefs of the United Nations and NATO secretary general also slammed the spy satellite launch, saying it was a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Pyongyang bristled at the criticism and vowed to try again as soon as possible.
Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said in state-run Korean Central News Agency Thursday that the secretive regime had a "sovereign right" to deploy the reconnaissance satellite and vowed that it "will soon start its mission on a space orbit."
Seoul and Washington have highlighted the growing threat of cybercrime by North Korea to fund its illicit weapons programs and to gain sensitive intelligence through spearphishing campaigns targeted at key industries.
Kimusky "conducts large-scale social engineering campaigns in which victims at think tanks, academic institutions and news outlets are manipulated and compromised for the purpose of intelligence gathering," the U.S. State Department said in the cybersecurity alert.
"These North Korean cyber actors are known to conduct spearphishing campaigns posing as real journalists, academics or other individuals with credible links to North Korean policy circles," the alert said.
The move follows a fresh round of sanctions imposed last week by Seoul and Washington on North Korean information technology workers and groups accused of bankrolling the regime's nuclear and missile programs.
Heavily sanctioned North Korea has turned to cybercrime to raise funds, with hackers stealing more than $1.2 billion in cryptocurrency since 2017, according to the South Korean government.