North Korea has stolen more than $300 million worth of cryptomoney in recent months through computer attacks to finance its proscribed nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, according to a confidential UN report.
The document, drawn up by a group of experts charged with monitoring the application of sanctions against Pyongyang, estimates that « the total amount of virtual goods stolen by the country between 2019 and November 2020 is about 316.4 million dollars », or 260 million euros.
North Korea has deployed thousands of experienced hackers who target companies and institutions in South Korea and elsewhere in the world. Their aim is also to find sources of income in the face of the multiple sanctions to which the country is subject because of its weapons programmes.
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Negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington have stalled since the failure of the Hanoi summit in 2019. One of the reasons for this deadlock has been the lack of consensus on the concessions that the North should make in exchange for lifting international sanctions against it.
The leader Kim Jong Il has since shown new missile designs and expressed his willingness to strengthen the country’s nuclear arsenal, including during military parades in October and January.
U.N. experts said they were investigating the September hacking of a cryptocurrency exchange that resulted in the theft of $281 million. Some $23 million was stolen a month later in a second cyber attack.
Piracy since 2014
Pyongyang’s piracy capabilities had come to light in 2014, when the North was accused of attacking Sony Pictures Entertainment in revenge for the film The Interview, a satire mocking Kim Jong one.
Pyongyang is also suspected of stealing some $81 million from the Central Bank of Bangladesh (BCB) in 2016 and $60 million from Taiwan’s Far Eastern International bank in 2017.
Hackers have reportedly stepped up attacks on bitcoin trading platforms, whose value continues to rise.