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Risk of Attacks from North Korea Increases as Relations Deteriorate

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry has filed a formal complaint against the United States for the seizure of the M/V Wise Honest. The M/V Wise Honest was seized for shipping cargo in and out of North Korea against current U.N. sanctions. North Korea’s Foreign Ministry called the seizure a “Flagrant act of robbery” on the part of the United States and that it violates the spirit of the agreement reached last June between the two nations. They also claimed that this was proof of the United States’ plans and desires to “subjugate” North Korea. They then made a veiled threat by saying that “The United States must mull over what repercussions its gangster-like act will entail”. North Korea has carried out a significant number of private industry attacks throughout Europe, Asia, North America, and Central America in recent years

Analyst Notes

Unless the parent company of the vessel, North Korea Trading Companies, files a complaint, the vessel and its contents could possibly be sold at auction which would further anger North Korea. While it is possible that the United States may return the vessel to North Korea once they feel that North Korea has gotten the message that the U.S. will not tolerate them violating sanctions, the cargo will likely not be returned. No matter how the U.S. handles North Korea’s complaint, North Korea will likely retaliate through either cyber-means or through further coordination with Russia. The loss of the vessel’s cargo and the income from that cargo will be difficult on North Korea and could possibly lead to further financially motivated attacks. North Korea will routinely utilize fraudulent SWIFT transactions to steal funds from banks, Banks are encouraged to review all transactions made through the SWIFT system and to be especially mindful of transactions being sent to foreign banks, especially Hong Kong which has been a regular location for North Korea to funnel stolen funds through.