According to a panel of experts reporting to the UN Security Council, North Korea has used cyberattacks and blockchain technology to amass a fortune in both cryptocurrencies and fiat. The secretive state is attempting to bypass economic sanctions put in place as a result of its nuclear and missile programs, according to news outlet, Nikkei Asian Review.
This is the first time the panel has given any details on how North Korea obtained the $670 million in foreign currency and digital currency. It’s thought that Pyongyang masterminded attacks on foreign financial institutions between 2015 and 2018. These attacks were carried out by specialized corps within the country’s military.
The panel have recommended that UN member states “enhance their ability to facilitate robust information exchange on the cyber attacks by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with other governments and with their own financial institutions”.
The panel said that cryptocurrencies “provide the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with more ways to evade sanctions, given that they are harder to trace, can be laundered many times and are independent from government regulation”.
Lazarus Group In Action Again?
South Korea have been stepping up their efforts for some time in order to counter the North’s hacking attempts. Officials in Seoul say they are keeping tabs on North Korea’s bitcoin-related activities, which analysts warn are being used to subvert international sanctions.
According to Hard Fork, North Korea is thought to have successfully targeted Asian cryptocurrency exchanges at least five times from January 2017 to September 2018 and losses were estimated at $571 million.
In 2017, almost $7 million was stolen from Bithumb, South Korea’s largest crypto exchange. Intelligence agencies revealed that North Korea was behind the theft. Hackers also stole the personal information of 30,000 people and demanded a further $5.5million in exchange for deleting some of the information they had stolen.
In 2016 the global cybersecurity company, Kaspersky Labs, identified a North Korean group known as “Lazarus” who were behind many hacking attempts across the world. The Lazarus Group is the most profitable cryptocurrency-hacker syndicate in the world.