March 25, 2022

How to Strengthen South Korea-US Cooperation on Combatting Cyber-enabled Financial Crime

By Jason Bartlett

Key logistical and structural differences between U.S. and South Korean intelligence and law enforcement agencies restrict enhanced coordination on crucial cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

Although Washington and Seoul have previously cooperated on cyber-enabled financial crime cases, these joint efforts are often only in response to ongoing incidents and not preventative in nature. This significantly reduces their ability to predict and prevent future crimes as information sharing often occurs already after the initial hack and/or illicit cyber-activity has succeeded.

The United States and South Korea each possess unique strengths in combating the rise of cyber-enabled financial crime, but their true joint potential is largely untapped.

In likely response to rising levels of cyber-enabled financial crime, Washington and Seoul included specific language on creating a joint cyber working group to combat the spread of ransomware and online sexual exploitation in a May 2021 summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. However, the document outlining the summit failed to include coordination on issues related to the misuse of cryptocurrency and other financial technology – despite cybercriminals using crypto as a major source of financing for their illicit activity.

Dating back to roughly 2017, North Korean operatives have continuously employed ransomware to extort cryptocurrency from their victims and South Korea-based child pornography websites also request payments in cryptocurrency to view their illicit content. Including joint research and investigations on the exploitation of cryptocurrency and new financial technology is crucial to strengthening both U.S. and South Korean national security.

Read the full article from The Diplomat.

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