US computer programmer jailed for donating tech know-how to North Korea

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A US COMPUTER PROGRAMMER has been jailed for 63 months for providing “highly technical information” to North Korea that related to cryptocurrency systems, US officials say. The programmer, Virgil Griffith, 39, also known as ‘Romanpoet’, rose to prominence in the early 2000s when he began to describe himself as a ‘disruptive technologist’. He then consulted with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other dark web and cryptocurrency law enforcement agencies.

Over the next few years, however, Griffith developed what his attorney described as a “curiosity bordering on obsession” with North Korea. The FBI arrested Griffith in November 2019, accusing him of deliberately providing the North Korean government with “highly technical information” regarding blockchain and cryptocurrency systems. According to US government prosecutors, Griffith committed a crime when he gave a guest presentation at an international cryptocurrency conference in Pyongyang, North Korea in April 2019.

Prior to attending the conference, Griffith had been barred from traveling to North Korea by the United States Department of State. He still managed to get there and, according to US prosecutors, “counseled more than 100 people” on using cryptocurrencies to evade banking regulations and international sanctions. Griffith should have known that many of his interlocutors were North Korean government employees, US prosecutors said. They argued that Griffith’s actions amounted to an illegal transfer of highly technical knowledge. By attending the conference, Griffith essentially provided services to a hostile foreign power in the United States, prosecutors claimed.

Griffith was sentenced to 63 months in prison, which will be followed by a 3-year supervised release. He was also fined $100,000. As IntelNews has previously reported, a United Nations report earlier this year warned that North Korea’s missile program has grown rapidly of late, in part due to an influx of stolen cryptocurrency, which has now become “an important source of income” for Pyongyang.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: April 13, 2022 | Permanent link

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