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North Korea stole $2B from banks and crypto exchanges to fund weapons of mass destruction, says UN

Tue, 06 Aug 2019, 10:06 am UTC

In a new report, the U.N. has estimated that North Korea has stolen around $2 billion from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges via cyberattacks, Reuters reported.

Citing the report, Reuters said that the stolen funds are intended to finance the country’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. North Korea employed “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyberattacks for stealing the funds, which were then laundered using cyberspace.

North Korea “used cyberspace to launch increasingly sophisticated attacks to steal funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges to generate income,” the report said.

“Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cyber actors, many operating under the direction of the Reconnaissance General Bureau [military intelligence agency], raise money for its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programmes, with total proceeds to date estimated at up to two billion US dollars.”

This, however, is not the first time that North Korea, formally called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), has been accused of resorting to cybercrime. The 2015 attack on the Central Bank of Bangladesh, the 2018 hack of India's Cosmos Bank, and the breach of the Bank of Chile’s ATM network, the hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014 are some of the infamous incidents that have been linked to North Korean hackers.

According to the report, the U.N. experts are looking into “at least 35 reported instances of DPRK actors attacking financial institutions, cryptocurrency exchanges and mining activity designed to earn foreign currency” in some 17 countries. They said that the country’s attacks against cryptocurrency exchanges allowed it “to generate income in ways that are harder to trace and subject to less government oversight and regulation than the traditional banking sector.”

“We call upon all responsible states to take action to counter North Korea’s ability to conduct malicious cyber activity, which generates revenue that supports its unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs,” a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said.

Similar views were echoed by Tonya Ugoretz, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s cyber readiness, outreach and intelligence branch, when she said that North Korea engages in cybercrime including cryptocurrency mining and bank theft to get around sanctions, The Korea Herald reported.

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