North Korea has been using cryptocurrencies and raids on foreign crypto exchanges to fund its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs, according to reports independent sanctions monitors made to the United Nations (UN).
The monitors, according to Reuters, delivered their findings to the UN Security Council North Korea sanctions committee.
Reuters, who claims to have seen a copy of the findings, quoted the monitors as stating that “cyberattacks, particularly on cryptocurrency assets, remain an important revenue source” for Pyongyang.
The monitors also indicated that they “had received information that North Korean hackers continued to target financial institutions, cryptocurrency firms and exchanges,” writing:
“According to a member state, [North Korean] cyberactors stole more than USD 50 million between 2020 and mid-2021 from at least three cryptocurrency exchanges in North America, Europe and Asia.”
Hackers in North Korea were said to be behind a series of crypto exchange intrusions in South Korea during 2017 - 2018.
The monitors also referred to a Chainalysis report from late 2021 that claimed North Korea carried out "at least seven attacks" against crypto trading platforms, stealing USD $400m in assets last year.
According to Chosun, a major South Korean media source, North Korean hackers appear to be obtaining far less revenue from their attempted attacks on cryptocurrency firms and other targets than previously. The USD 50 million figure in the new report is “significantly lower” than the USD 2 billion claimed stolen by Pyongyang in a UN Panel of Experts report released in 2019.
According to South Korean security experts, most crypto exchanges in the country have "dramatically" increased their security networks as a result of "a range of hacking threats," no longer being the "low-hanging fruit" for hackers from North Korea or elsewhere.
North Korea has considerably expanded its weapons program in recent months, despite closing its borders for the bulk of the COVID-19 epidemic and hearing reports of famine.
The Korean Central News Agency, the state-run news agency in Pyongyang, stated that the country's military conducted "tests on a ground-to-ground medium- and long-range ballistic missile" named Hwasong-12 on January 30, adding:
“The accuracy, safety, and operational effectiveness of the Type 12 weapon system have been confirmed.”