Devin, the founder of a cryptocurrency startup based in San Francisco, woke up one day in February to the most bizarre phone call of his life. The man on the other end, an FBI agent, told Devin that the seemingly legitimate software developer he’d hired the previous summer was a North Korean operative who’d sent tens of thousands of dollars of his salary to the country’s authoritarian regime. Stunned, Devin hung up and immediately cut the employee off from company accounts, he said. “He was a good contributor,” Devin lamented, puzzled by the man who had claimed to be Chinese and passed multiple rounds of interviews to get hired. (CNN is using a pseudonym for Devin to protect the identity of his company). Devin’s encounter is just one example of what US officials say is a relentless, evolving effort by the North Korean government to infiltrate and steal from cryptocurrency and other tech firms around the world to help fund Kim Jong Un’s illicit nuclear and ballistic weapons program.
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