FBI: ‘Thousands of North Korean IT workers’ freelanced at U.S. firms to fund missile program

FPI / October 27, 2023


North Korea’s government deployed an army of IT workers who deceived businesses into hiring them as freelancers and then sent the millions of dollars they earned to North Korea for its ballistic missile program, the FBI and Department of Justice said.

An example of a website formerly run by North Korean IT workers is displayed during a press conference on Oct. 18 at the FBI’s field office in downtown St. Louis.

The IT workers were sent to live primarily in China and Russia with the goal of deceiving businesses, mostly from the United States, into hiring them as remote contract employees, the FBI said.

The IT 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 on Oct. 18 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.

The DOJ said the IT workers used fake IDs in order to get the jobs in question.

Greenberg said that “the FBI recommends that employers take additional proactive steps with remote IT workers to make it harder for bad actors to hide their identities.”

The State Department, FBI, and the Department of the Treasury released an advisory in 2022 which claimed it was possible that North Koreans were trying to “obtain employment while posing as non-North Korean nationals.”

The advisory went on to note that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un “has placed increased focus on education and training” in subjects related to IT.

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