Army captain leaks military secrets to North Korean spy for cryptocurrency

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Military personnel carry out military drills in the border area between the two Koreas in Paju, northern Gyeonggi Province, March 8. Newsis

By Lee Hae-rin

An Army captain and a virtual assets service CEO have been arrested and charged with leaking military secrets to a suspected North Korean hacker.

According to the military, police and prosecution authorities, the cryptocurrency service owner identified by the surname of Lee received a total of 700 million won ($555,000) worth of cryptocurrency on two separate occasions from February to April of last year, in return for winning over personnel from the country’s military.

Lee and the captain were introduced to the North Korean spy through their acquaintances and communicated through Telegram, an instant messaging app.

Lee then bought a digital watch with a hidden camera and sent it to the officer in January via the mail, which he smuggled into the military, the investigation team said. Lee also bought a Poison Tap ― a USB hacking tool that exploits data from locked computers ― and used it in an attempt to program military computers remotely with the lieutenant’s help.

The investigation revealed that the military officer provided the Korean Joint Command and Control System (KJCCS) login information to the North Korean spy but the hack was not successful.

The military’s digital network was not hacked as it blocked any external access in advance, according to the police.

“If the KJCCS had been hacked, a large number of military secrets would have been leaked and led to a serious threat to national security,” a military official said.

However, the captain was able to share some military secrets such as filmed computer screens showing security regulations and sent them multiple times to the North Korean hacker via Telegram.

This is the first time that a military person was won over by a North Korean spy remotely via social media and revealed the country’s secret information.

In return for the secret information, Lee and the lieutenant each received 700 million won and 48 million won of cryptocurrency, the police and military said.