UN: North Korea stole $300m in crypto through cyberattacks to fund nukes

WION Web Team
Seoul, South Korea Published: Feb 10, 2021, 04:12 PM(IST)

A file photo of a pedestrian walking past a North Korean flag displayed on a building in Pyongyang. Photograph:( AFP )

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Compiled by a panel of experts monitoring sanctions on Pyongyang, the report said, the country's "total theft of virtual assets from 2019 to November 2020 is valued at approximately $316.4 million", citing a UN member state

To support its banned nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, North Korea has stolen more than $300 million worth of cryptocurrencies through cyberattacks in recent months, a confidential UN report said. 

Compiled by a panel of experts monitoring sanctions on Pyongyang, the report said, the country's "total theft of virtual assets from 2019 to November 2020 is valued at approximately $316.4 million", citing a UN member state. 

Financial institutions and exchanges were hacked to generate revenue for Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development, said the report. 

The vast majority of the proceeds came from two thefts late last year. 

The North is known to operate an army of thousands of well-trained hackers, who have attacked firms, institutions and researchers in South Korea and elsewhere. 

It has also been accused of exploiting its cyber capabilities for financial gain. 

The North is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, which have made rapid progress under leader Kim Jong Un. 

A summit between Kim and then-US president Donald Trump in Hanoi in February 2019 broke down over sanctions relief and what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in return. 

Nuclear talks have been stalled ever since, while the North showed off several new missiles at military parades in October and last month, when Kim pledged to strengthen his nuclear arsenal. 

The UN panel said it was investigating a September 2020 hack against a cryptocurrency exchange that resulted in $281 million worth of cryptocurrencies being stolen. 

A second cyberattack siphoned off $23 million a month later. 

"Preliminary analysis, based on the attack vectors and subsequent efforts to launder the illicit proceeds strongly suggests links to the DPRK," the report said, using the initials for the North's official name.

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