North Korea funds missile programme with stolen crypto, says UN
North Korean cyber attacks have pilfered millions of dollars worth of crypto assets which are being used to fund the country’s missile programme.
Between 2020 and mid-2021 cyber attackers stole more than $50m (£37m) of digital assets according to the UN, the BBC first reported. A UN report submitted to the sanctions committee said digital assets were an “important revenue source” for Pyongyang’s nuclear missile programme.
A recent study by blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis revealed that North Korean cyber criminal extracted at least $400m from crypto exchanges in 2021, as the value of attacks jumped by 40 per cent. The majority of the funds were stolen in attacks which targeted at least three crypto exchanges in North America, Europe and Africa.
Researchers at Chainalysis found that $170m in current balances that are controlled by North Korea but have yet to be laundered.
“These behaviours paint a portrait of a nation that supports cryptocurrency-enabled crime on a massive scale. North Korea’s government—be it through the Lazarus Group or its other criminal syndicates—has cemented itself as an advanced persistent threat to the cryptocurrency industry last year,” the report’s authors concluded.
In 2019, the UN reported that North Korea had accumulated approximately $2bn for its weapons programmes through cyber-attacks.
The report noted a marked acceleration in North Korea’s missile testing and capabilities despite the country facing UN sanctions. In January a record nine ballistic missile tests went ahead in violation of UN security council resolutions.
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