(Seoul) North Korea has in recent months stolen more than USD 300 million worth of cryptomoney through computer attacks to fund its proscribed nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, according to a confidential UN report.
Published on 10 February 2021 at 6:59 a.m.
The document, drafted by a group of experts charged with monitoring the implementation of sanctions against Pyongyang, estimates that « the total amount of virtual goods stolen by the country between 2019 and November 2020 amounts to about $316.4 million » (€260 million), according to a United Nations member state.
Financial institutions and stock exchanges have been hacked into in order to finance the development of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic programmes, according to the report, which AFP was able to consult.
A large majority of the revenue came from two hijackings at the end of 2020.
North Korea has deployed thousands of seasoned hackers targeting companies and institutions in South Korea and elsewhere in the world.
They also aim to find sources of income in the face of the multiple sanctions to which the country is subject as a result of its arms programmes.
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 the international sanctions against it.
The leader Kim Jong-un 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.
« An initial analysis of the vectors used in the attack and the means used to launder the illicit proceeds showed strong links with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), » the report said.
Pyongyang’s piracy capabilities were highlighted in 2014, when the North was accused of attacking Sony Pictures Entertainment in retaliation for the film « The Interview, » a satire mocking Kim Jong-un.
Pyongyang is also suspected of stealing some $81 million from the Central Bank of Bangladesh (BCB) in 2016 and some $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.