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The government of North Korea has managed to swipe $2 billion from cyberattacks on international financial and crypto organizations, and spent that money on its nuclear program.
The news came from a classified UN report prepared by an independent team of experts who presented it last week to the United Nations Security Council’s North Korea Sanctions Committee. The report suggests that the North Korean government spent a large amount of money in support of its nuclear weapons program from cyber-attacks on banks and cryptocurrency exchanges.
As the report suggests, “North Korea used cyberspace to launch increasingly sophisticated attacks to steal funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges to generate income.” With 109 pages of annexes, the 33-page report describes how North Korea is using sophisticated techniques to evade the sanctions imposed on the isolated country.
The report further suggests that the country repeatedly used the cyberspace to launder the stolen money over the course of the last six months. In addition to that, the report blames that the North Korean authoritarian regime conducts cyber-attacks on crypto exchanges, which are more difficult to monitor and are subjected to far less public supervision and regulatory framework than traditional banking.
There were some robberies of popular cryptocurrency trading platforms recently, such as the security breach disclosed by Tokyo-based Remixpoint last month, which runs the BITPoint exchange, triggering a digital currency loss of 3.5 billion yen, or US$32 million. The North Korean government is said to be the mastermind behind this and other hacking operations.
The report strongly blames different countries and institutions that failed to implement regulations and financial sanctions on their blockchain, cryptocurrency and monetary systems. The lack of regulations and the malicious cyber-attacks allowed North Korea to get an access to these financial systems and generate income for developing weapons of mass destruction.
The experts have mentioned investigations of 35 different events of North Korean actors targeting different financial institutions, cryptocurrency exchanges and crypto mining firms from 17 different countries. North Korean agents were blamed for the attempted $951 million heist against Bangladesh Bank that happened in 2016, which was only foiled because of a correspondent bank’s vigilance.
The report states:
“Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cyber actors, many operating under the direction of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, raise money for its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programmes, with total proceeds to date estimated at up to two billion US dollars.”
Deeply Involved in Crypto Scams and Hacks
Earlier in the year, US President Donald Trump met with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in an attempt to persuade the North Koreans to give up their nuclear weapons program. According to the report, North Korea “continued to enhance its nuclear and missile programmes although it did not conduct a nuclear test or ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) launch.”
This is hardly the first time that North Korea is accused of hacking and stealing: In the not-so-long-ago past, a North Korean hacking crew was singled out as the perpetrator of five different attacks in the total sum of $570 million, and experts have estimated that the regime has broadened its involvement in cryptocurrency scams over the past year.
It’s no surprise, then, that a completely immoral an autocratic regime keeps exploiting loopholes for the sake of its own survival, even on the expanse of its very own citizens.