North Korea tests new type of cruise missile

North Korea launched a test flight for a new type of missile. The test on Wednesday was the first for an under-development strategic cruise missile. Reports named the weapon as a Pulhwasal-3-31 missile. The test fire had no negative effect on the security of the neighboring country and is not connected with the situation of the region. The launch comes amid growing cooperation between the United States, South Korea, and Japan, with the three countries saying they are sharing real-time updates and analysis on military activity in the region.

The United States State Department on Wednesday had called for North Korea to refrain from further provocative, destabilizing actions and return to diplomacy. North Korea is eager to engage in substantive discussions on identifying ways to not just manage military risk but create lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, as well as its continued stated goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The number of North Korea-linked hacks of cryptocurrency trading platforms hit an all-time high last year, new research on such thefts finds, highlighting continued cyberthreats from the country.

North Korea-linked hacks have been on the rise over the past few years. Cyber-espionage groups are using various tactics to acquire large amounts of crypto assets. However, the estimated value of thefts by North Korea-linked hackers declined to $1 billion in 2023 from $1.7 billion in 2022 as a bear market brought down the value of virtual assets. Including other cases, there were 231 cryptocurrency hacks globally last year, up from 219 in 2022, and the estimated amount stolen fell 54% to $1.7 billion.

Platforms’ increased security contributed to last year’s overall drop.

Attackers continue to develop more sophisticated tools, finding holes to exploit smart contracts, or laundering their spoils through new platforms called mixers. Investigators have urged users to be suspicious of claims that they can make virtual money quickly and to take all possible steps to secure digital wallets, as third parties are vulnerable to hacks. North Korea is a government that has chosen to use its intelligence services not to collect intelligence necessarily, but to actually just hack into and steal from virtual currency exchanges.

It is not like North Korea is necessarily buying innocuous things. It is a country that puts between 16% to 25% of its gross domestic product toward its military. Most of Pyongyang’s cyber-loot funds the military, such thefts coincided with an acceleration in the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. In recent months, North Korea’s escalating weapons tests, rhetoric and cooperation with Russia have renewed fears it has made a “decision to go to war”.

The United States government’s work with counterparts in South Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia is vital to fighting North Korea’s illicit activity. Other crimes are on the rise, too, especially among human traffickers across Southeast Asia who force people to conduct online scams. Despite ramping up their efforts and expanding their target range, hacking groups linked to North Korea, such as Kimsuky and Lazarus Group, experienced a decrease in their illicit crypto gains in 2023.

In 2022, North Korea-linked exploits resulted in the theft of approximately $1.7 billion in crypto across 15 hacking incidents.

However, in 2023, these hacking groups stole around $1 billion worth of crypto from 20 hacks, indicating a decline in the value of their illicit gains despite an increase in exploits. North Korea-linked hacks will be more advanced and wide-ranging. With enhanced security measures in decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols making it more challenging to steal crypto, North Korean hackers changed their areas of focus to centralized services and wallets.

Phishing and social engineering emerged as preferred attack vectors for DPRK-linked hackers in 2023, highlighting the need for employee education and awareness. Robust cybersecurity strategies, including vigilant employees and up-to-date technical defenses, are important. DPRK-linked hackers exhibited a tendency to spend more time within networks, underscoring the need for heightened network monitoring and security.

DeFi protocols susceptible to on-chain failures are advised to implement systems for monitoring on-chain activities, while platforms vulnerable to off-chain risks should reduce their reliance on centralized products and services.