North Korea has gathered an estimated 2 billion dollars by hacking cryptocurrency exchanges and banks. Reuters news agency reports this after viewing a confidential report from the United Nations.
Financing a nuclear program
According to Reuters, the money is used to finance the country’s nuclear program. The report also states that North Korea uses cyberspace to carry out increasingly sophisticated attacks to steal funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges to generate revenue. They also used “cyberspace” to launder the stolen money.
According to the UN, North Korea opted for exchanges because cryptocurrencys are more difficult to trace than fiat money. There is also less government supervision and regulation than in the traditional banking sector.
Caught 35 times in 17 countries
Reuters says that North Korea has been caught at least 35 times (whether or not afterwards) in hacking financial institutions, cryptocurrency exchanges and mining pools. The UN is investigating these attacks in seventeen different countries.
Incidentally, the United Nations report is not transparent, so we have to rely on the Reuters report.
It is therefore not possible to determine whether the figures of the notorious North Korean hacking group Lazarus have been included. Cyber security company Group-IB already reported last year that since January 2017 Lazarus has been behind 14 hacks on crypto exchanges. These exchanges are mainly located in South Korea. In total, Lazarus captured a little less than $ 600 million.
Cryptocurrency to bypass sanctions
North Korea suffers from sanctions from almost every country in the world. It is not unique that the country is now looking at cryptocurrency to circumvent these sanctions. What is unique is that North Korea has the means to perform hacks on a large scale to steal crypto.
Countries such as Venezuela, Iran and Cuba have also taken steps to circumvent international sanctions with cryptocurrency. Venezuela has introduced its own cryptocurrency, Iran focuses on crypto mining and develops a cryptocurrency based on the gold standard, Cuba focuses primarily on the trade in cryptocurrencys.
VOA News made this report in April: