North Korea has stolen more than $300 million worth of encryption money 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 theft of virtual goods committed by the country between 2019 and November 2020 amounts to about 316.4 million dollars » (260 million euros), according to a UN 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.
Their aim is also to find sources of revenue in the face of the multiple sanctions to which the country is subject as a result of its weapons programmes.
Negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington have stalled since the failed 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 reveal 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 having stolen some 81 million dollars from the Bangladesh Central Bank (BCB) in 2016 and some 60 million dollars from Taiwan’s Far Eastern International bank in 2017.
Hackers have reportedly stepped up attacks on bitcoin trading platforms, whose value continues to rise.