The North Korean regime has managed to increase the sophistication of its cyber attacks, which have successfully targeted banks and cryptocurrency exchanges.
According to a confidential report by the United Nations, North Korea has amassed a estimated $2 billion using “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyberattacks that targeted banks and cryptocurrency exchanges.
North Korea plans on using these funds to further develop its weapons of mass destruction programs.
The report also states, Pyongyang “continued to enhance its nuclear and missile programmes although it did not conduct a nuclear test or ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) launch”.
The report has been tabled at the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee, by independent experts who have been monitoring its compliance over the past six months.
The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not respond to requests for comment on the report, which was submitted to the Security Council committee last week.
According to these experts, North Korea “used cyberspace to launch increasingly sophisticated attacks to steal funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges to generate income.”
North Korea also used the internet to launder the stolen funds.
“Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cyber actors, many operating under the direction of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, raise money for its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programmes, with total proceeds to date estimated at up to two billion US dollars,” states the report.
Incidentally, North Korea is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) with the Reconnaissance General Bureau being its top military intelligence agency.
According to the experts, they are in the midst of investigating “at least 35 reported instances of DPRK actors attacking financial institutions, cryptocurrency exchanges and mining activity designed to earn foreign currency” in at least seventeen countries.
The U.N. experts mentioned, North Korea’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.”
Since 2006, the UN Security Council has unanimously imposed sanctions on DPRK in a bid to choke its funding for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
When asked to comment on the tabled U.N. report, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department said, “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.”
The U.N. report did not take into account last week’s missile launches by North Korea, since it was already completed by then. Nevertheless, it noted “missile launches in May and July enhanced its overall ballistic missile capabilities.”
The U.N. experts highlighted the fact that despite ongoing diplomatic efforts to dissuade North Korea from pursuing its goals of researching weapons of mass destruction, they have found evidence that North Korea continues to violate U.N. sanctions.
“For example, the DPRK continued to violate sanctions through ongoing illicit ship-to-ship transfers and procurement of WMD-related items and luxury goods,” reads the U.N. report.