The United States on Friday sanctioned three entities it accused of conducting cyber attacks on behalf of the North Korean government to generate revenue for the regime's nuclear and missile programs.
The Department of the Treasury said the new measures target Lazarus Group, Bluenoroff, and Andariel, all of which are controlled by the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea's primary intelligence bureau.
Lazarus Group's activities were widely reported after it was blamed for the 2014 cyber attack of Sony Pictures Entertainment and the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack on countries including the U.S. and Britain.
Bluenoroff and Andariel, the Treasury said, are sub-groups of Lazarus Group.
"Treasury is taking action against North Korean hacking groups that have been perpetrating cyber attacks to support illicit weapon and missile programs," Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker said in a statement.
"We will continue to enforce existing U.S. and UN sanctions against North Korea and work with the international community to improve cybersecurity of financial networks," she said.
The sanctions freeze all of the entities' property and interests in the U.S., as well as those of other entities that are owned 50 percent or more by the three groups.
Bluenoroff had attempted to steal more than $1.1 billion from financial institutions by 2018, and successfully carried out such operations against banks in countries including South Korea, Bangladesh and India, the Treasury said, citing industry and press reporting.
Andariel, it said, continues to target the South Korean government in order to gather intelligence, and in September 2016, hacked into the then South Korean defense minister's personal computer.
Last week a U.N. panel of experts estimated that North Korea has acquired as much as $2 billion through cyberattacks and said it is conducting investigations into at least 35 reported cyberattacks involving North Korean actors.
The latest Treasury measures come as denuclearization negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea remain deadlocked due to Washington's insistence on Pyongyang's complete denuclearization and the North's demands for sanctions relief and security guarantees.
This week North Korea offered to resume talks in late September, but demanded that Washington come up with a new proposal acceptable to Pyongyang. The U.S. State Department welcomed the statement, adding that the U.S. will continue to seek the North's final and fully verified denuclearization.
U.S. President Donald Trump also said Thursday that he expects to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un again at some point later this year.
The two have had three meetings, but have reached no agreement since they committed to "work toward" the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula at their first summit in Singapore in June 2018. (Yonhop)