North Korea Accused of Funding Nuclear Programs with Crypto-focused Cyberattacks

  • According to reports, the United Nations claims North Korea might funnel crypto obtained via coordinated cyberattacks on exchange platforms towards its weapons programs.
  • North Korea’s military is suspected of having generated about $2 billion from crypto hacks since 2019.

UN Reports on Attacks By DPRK Cyberactors

The information was initially sourced from a UN report where a member state alleged that cyber actors from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) had made off with virtual currency worth over $50m. The report claims these attacks occurred through 2020 and the first half of 2021.

On Friday, February 4, 2022, the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee received the results of an investigation carried out by security firm Chainalysis. According to the report, North Korea might have amassed up to $400 million in crypto assets last year through extensive hacks on financial institutions and crypto exchanges, which had grown more elaborate and advanced over time.

In total, North Korea is said to have accrued about $2 billion since 2019 through the efforts of hackers who were working according to instructions from the leading North Korean Military agency – the Reconnaissance General Bureau. The investigative panel stated they looked into at least 35 reported attacks from DPRK cyber actors in about 17 countries, noting that up to 3 of the hacked institutions and platforms were based in North America, Europe, and Asia.

North Korea Funding WMD Programmes

The report also claims that proceeds for North Korea’s cyberattacks on crypto institutions were being funneled into illegal missile programs. In addition, the East Asian country is said to have employed complicated cyber protocols to launder stolen funds, which were then used to advance the development of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Since 2006, several countries have jointly imposed sanctions on the DPRK, causing a ban on the exportation of a variety of items from coal to seafood and preventing the DPRK from importing crude oil and refined petroleum products.

There have been concerns in the past about North Korea’s WMD programs. In June 2019, former US President Donald Trump met with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un to persuade Pyongyang (the capital of North Korea and its military base) to shut down its WMD programs. However, the meeting was unsuccessful, and in the months following, North Korea carried out three short-range missile tests.

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Furthermore, under the direction of authoritarian head Kim Jong-un, the DPRK has launched at least eight missile tests in the space of last month. The report outlined a continued search abroad for materials, technological developments, and expertise.  A spokeswoman from the U.S State Department has implored all states to take countering steps to stop DPRK’s ability to fund and develop its missile program.

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