(PresidentialHill.com)- In an advisory issued by US officials and the FBI this week, businesses were cautioned against inadvertently hiring freelance IT staff from North Korea.
The advisory, issued by the State and Treasury Departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned that rogue freelancers are exploiting remote-work opportunities to hide their real identities while earning money for the North Korean regime.
Pyongyang uses these freelance IT workers to try to circumvent US and UN sanctions to raise money for North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
US officials said companies who hire these North Korean tech workers could be exposing themselves to legal consequences for violating sanctions.
According to the advisory, thousands of North Korean-linked IT workers posing as South Koreans, Japanese, or from other Asian countries are “generating revenue that is remitted back to the North Korean government.” These rogue IT workers are taking advantage of the high demand for specific IT skills “to obtain freelance employment contracts” with clients in North America, East Asia, and Europe.
Some of the other fields these North Koreans target include mobile games, graphic animation, dating apps, and building cryptocurrency platforms.
According to the advisory, in some cases, these workers are being subjected to forced labor, human trafficking, and working excessive hours under the watchful eye of Kim Jong-un’s regime.
Many of these workers use VPNs to hide their identity from their employers and limit communications to text messaging rather than video calls.
Businesses are advised to watch for certain red flags, including a freelancer refusing to participate in video calls, those who request payment in virtual currency, and those who say they can’t receive work-related items at the address they provide when hired.
The advisory also warned that these North Korean IT workers could “steal the customer account information of US and international banks to verify their identities with freelance platforms, payment providers, and companies” that employ contract workers.
Beyond seeking a way to bypass sanctions, hiring these North Koreans also increases the risk of the theft of intellectual property, data, and funds.