Thousands of information technology workers contracting with U.S. companies have for years secretly sent millions of dollars of their wages to North Korea for use in its ballistic missile program, FBI and Department of Justice officials said. The Justice Department said Wednesday that IT workers dispatched and contracted by North Korea to work remotely with companies in St. Louis and elsewhere in the U.S. have been using false identities to get the jobs. The money they earned was funneled to the North Korean weapons program, FBI leaders said at a news conference in St. Louis.
Court documents allege that North Korea’s government dispatched thousands of skilled IT workers to live primarily in China and Russia with the goal of deceiving businesses from the U.S. and elsewhere into hiring them as freelance remote employees. The workers used various techniques to make it look like they were working in the U.S., including paying Americans to use their home Wi-Fi connections, said Jay Greenberg, special agent in charge of the St. Louis FBI office. Greenberg said any company that hired freelance IT workers “more than likely” hired someone participating in the scheme. An FBI spokeswoman said Thursday that the North Koreans contracted with companies across the U.S. and in some other countries. “We can tell you that there are thousands of North Korea IT workers that are part of this,” spokeswoman Rebecca Wu said. Federal authorities announced the seizure of $1.5 million and 17 domain names as part of the investigation, which is ongoing. FBI officials said the scheme is so prevalent that companies must be extra vigilant in verifying whom they are hiring, including requiring interviewees to at least be seen via video.
The IT workers generated millions of dollars a year in their wages to benefit North Korea’s weapons programs. In some instances, the North Korean workers also infiltrated computer networks and stole information from the companies that hired them, the Justice Department said. They also maintained access for future hacking and extortion schemes, the agency said. Officials didn’t name the companies that unknowingly hired North Korean workers, say when the practice began, or elaborate on how investigators became aware of it. But federal authorities have been aware of the scheme for some time.
Originally Posted at https://slashdot.org/