FBI, DOJ Investigate IT Wage Funneling to North Korea's Ballistic Missile Program
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice have uncovered a clandestine operation involving thousands of information technology (IT) workers contracting with U.S. companies, Security Week wrote October 19.
The Associated Press reported that "thousands" of IT workers contracting with US companies were involved in the scheme to funnel wages to finance the North Korean ballistic missile program, citing an announcement from the US Justice Department made on Wednesday, August 18. These workers have been secretly sending millions of dollars of their wages to North Korea to support its ballistic missile program. The FBI, in collaboration with local authorities, has seized $1.5 million and 17 domain names as part of an ongoing investigation into this illicit scheme.
False Identities and Funneled Money
According to the Justice Department, IT workers dispatched and contracted by North Korea have been using false identities to secure jobs with companies in St. Louis and other locations across the United States. Unbeknownst to these companies, the wages earned by these workers were funneled directly to North Korea's weapons program. The FBI leaders, during a news conference held in St. Louis, emphasized the prevalence of this scheme, suggesting that any company hiring freelance IT workers likely participated in this illicit practice.
Precautionary Measures and Vigilance
In light of this alarming discovery, the FBI strongly advises companies to exercise vigilance when hiring remote IT workers and take proactive steps to ensure the identities of their employees. Jay Greenberg, the special agent in charge of the St. Louis FBI office, stated that companies must be diligent in verifying the credentials of their IT workforce. The FBI recommends additional measures to make it harder for bad actors to conceal their true identities.
Unveiling the Operation
While the authorities did not disclose the names of the companies unknowingly employing North Korean workers, the court documents shed light on the modus operandi of the scheme. The government of North Korea dispatched thousands of skilled IT workers to China and Russia, where they resided while deceiving businesses from the United States and other countries. These IT workers not only generated substantial amounts of money for North Korea's weapons programs but also infiltrated the computer networks of the companies that hired them, illegally obtaining sensitive information.
The investigation into this covert operation is still underway. Federal authorities have seized significant assets, but the full extent of the scheme and its impact on U.S. national security is yet to be determined.
The FBI, along with its partners, remains committed to ensuring the safety and integrity of the nation's IT infrastructure. Companies are urged to cooperate fully with law enforcement agencies and implement rigorous hiring protocols to safeguard against future instances of fraudulent remote employment.