Global banks gearing up for devastating cyber-attacks from North Korea

In October, we talked about how British banks were worried that North Korea would target them to recoup necessary finances to fund the country's nuclear programme following the imposition of economic sanctions.

It now seems the fear has spread to major banks all over the world who fear North Korea may try to cripple their networks in response to U.S. threats.

According to Reuters, global banks fear that North Korea may seek to cripple their networks and disrupt their operations in the face of U.S. military action against its nuclear weapons programme. A number of cyber experts also believe that North Korean hackers may target banks with new 'wiper' viruses which they previously used to target Sony Corp and South Korean institutions.

In September, fresh sanctions announced by the United States directly affected as many as eight North Korean banks and 26 bank workers living abroad. Combined with sanctions announced by the United Nations, these efforts were meant to significantly impact North Korea's access to the international banking system. Major banks fear North Korea may soon target them with retaliatory cyber-attacks.

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"As sanctions bite further and North Korea becomes more desperate for foreign currency, they will get more aggressive and continue to come after the finance sector. They’re after our money,” said Robert Hannigan, who retired in March this year after leading the GCHQ for three years, to The Times.

Adding that North Korea would soon become a "premier league" player in cyber-warfare, Hannigan said that they have found new tools for conducting cyber-attacks like spoofing and phishing people on social media. A number of hacker groups with links to North Korea have gained notoriety in the past few years, including Lazarus Group and Hidden Cobra.

Speaking at the Reuters Cyber Security Summit, Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer at CrowdStrike, said that hackers with links to North Korea have so far stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from global banks and may continue to launch sophisticated attacks on financial targets. 'The difference between theft and destruction is often a few keystrokes,' he warned.

However, Jim Lewis, a cyber expert at Washington’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies, believes that North Korea may not launch crippling cyber-attacks on American banks out of fear of a retaliation from the U.S.

Consiidering that North Korea has been consistently launching attacks on American institutions in the past few years, banks are not taking chances and are strengthening their cyber defences with every passing day.

'The challenge is that North Korea's objectives are a lot about being able to lash out and they’re also limited in other ways they could insert themselves, cut off from so much of the global economy' says Michael Sulmeyer, director of the Cyber Security Project at Harvard’s Belfer Center.

'With an army focused on the South, a navy that is limited in reach, and an air force oriented towards defense, North Korea’s main ways to threaten countries beyond its immediate borders are with missiles or with cyber intrusions,' said Kelsey Atherton, a defense technology journalist.