Updated May 21st, 2024 at 18:10 IST

North Korean IT Workers Posing as Americans to Fund Regime's Missile Programme: Report

North Korea has long relied on the revennue generated by its citizens working abroad to circumvent the impact of international sanctions on the regime's weapons

Reported by: Digital Desk
US class action settlements flooded with fraudulent claims | Image:Pixabay
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New Delhi: In an effort to circumvent international sanctions and send much-needed foreign currency to the regime in Pyongyang, North Korean IT workers have been successfully scoring remote working gigs by pretending to be Americans, Axios reported. Just last week, the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia put out a press release stating that IT workers affiliated with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (more commonly known as North Korea) have infiltrated more than 300 US companies, earning millions for the sanctioned regime.

The press release followed efforts by federal prosecutors to clamp down on one such operation in the US, with a woman from Arizona, a Ukrainian man and three ‘unidentified’ foreign nationals being charged with the scheme to place North Korean IT workers in remote working gigs at over 300 American companies. As alleged in the complaint, the scheme was facilitated by US-based ‘laptop farms’ which allowed North Korean workers to remotely access these laptops and appear as if they were based within the US itself. 

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The companies they targeted with this scheme ranged from a major television network to an aerospace manufacturer. These IT workers even attempted to gain employment in government agencies on three separate occasions but failed. All in all, with the use of the ‘laptop farm’ and stolen American identities, the scheme managed to generate at least $6.8 million in revenue for the workers who are allegedly connected to the regime in Pyongyang. 

A media note put out by the US Department of State last week said that the revenue generated by the workers is directly funnelled into the regime's weapons programme, with these workers reportedly being linked to the DPRK's Munitions Industry Department. 

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The Axios report, quoting experts, said that the advent of generative AI tools has made it even easier for North Korean IT workers to find employment in the US by crafting ‘believable resumes’. 

This it should be noted, is not the first time North Korea has attempted such a scheme. Indeed. the sanctioned regime is known to sustain some part of its spending on the revenue being generated by tens of thousands of North Koreans overtly or covertly working in countries across the world. 

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Earlier this year, a UNSC Panel said that, in 2023, around 100,000 North Korean workers were employed abroad, earning around $500 million for the regime. While previously these workers were employed in manual labour jobs in countries such as China, Russia and even Qatar, increasingly IT workers are being involved in such efforts. 

An expert quoted in the Axios report said that this latest scam by North Korea is likely to inspire other such groups to follow suit. 

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Published May 21st, 2024 at 18:08 IST