North Korea’s ‘Widespread and Increasingly Sophisticated’ Cyber-Attacks Bring in $2 billion: U.N.

North Korea has cashed in a reported USD $2-billion from “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyber tactics ranging from bank theft and compromising cryptocurrency exchanges.

The money, according to a United Nations report is being funnelled into its program developing weapons of mass destruction, as the hermit nation is effectively cut off from the world’s financial trading system and currency markets.

The independent report said that Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital has “continued to enhance its nuclear and missile programmes although it did not conduct a nuclear test or ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) launch,” after monitoring North Korea’s compliance over the past six-months.

The authors noted that North Korea has “used cyberspace to launch increasingly sophisticated attacks to steal funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges to generate income,” in addition to using the web to launder illicit funds.

“[The] 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,” the report said.

Experts confirmed they were investigating “at least 35 reported instances of DPRK actors attacking financial institutions, cryptocurrency exchanges and mining activity designed to earn foreign currency” across 17 different countries.

The U.N. said that North Korea’s compromising of cryptocurrency exchanges have allowed the nation to “generate income in ways that are harder to trade and subject to less government oversight and regulation than the traditional banking sector.”

The U.S. State Department made a public comment on the United Nation’s report, with a spokesperson saying that “we call upon on 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.”

In spite of their diplomatic endeavours, the report’s authors noted 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,” the report said.

According to a Reuters report, the United Nations “security council has unanimously imposed sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The Council has banned exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capped imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.”

Considering the sanctions are still in place, it looks likely that North Korea will continue its online endeavours to source funding for its weapons program. As we reported yesterday, as many as one-in-five companies in the States have had their intellectual property stolen by China, which could see North Korea moving to means of corporate sabotage for increased fund raising.

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