A panel of experts at the United Nations says that North Korea has amassed $316 million in cryptocurrencies from various cyberattacks on crypto exchanges and financial institutions. The panel also investigated North Korea’s involvement in the $281 million hack of a crypto exchange.
UN Expert Panel Sheds Light on North Korea’s Cyberattack Activities
A United Nations panel of experts has submitted a draft report reviewing the measures on North Korea to the Security Council’s North Korea Sanctions Committee. Nikkei says it has obtained a copy of the document, noting that it will be made public after discussion and revisions by the council’s board member nations.
The report highlights that North Korea’s “total theft of virtual assets from 2019 to November 2020 is valued at approximately $316.4 million,” citing one unidentified country. North Korea allegedly uses cyberattacks against financial institutions and crypto exchanges to generate money to support its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, according to the report.
Moreover, the panel revealed that it investigated malicious activities by North Korea’s primary intelligence agency called the Reconnaissance General Bureau, an entity on the U.N. sanctions blacklist. Its activities include “the targeting of virtual assets and virtual asset service providers, and attacks on defense companies.”
“Preliminary analysis, based on the attack vectors and subsequent efforts to launder the illicit proceeds strongly suggests links to the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea],” the U.N. experts said.
In addition, the panel said it is investigating a September 2020 hack against a cryptocurrency exchange during which approximately $281 million worth of cryptocurrencies were stolen. Blockchain data analysis indicates that this hack is related to a second hack in October 2020 where $23 million were stolen. The $281 million hack is believed to be that of cryptocurrency exchange Kucoin.
The report further outlines how North Korea continues to launder stolen cryptocurrencies by exchanging them for fiat currencies, like the U.S. dollar, via over-the-counter (OTC) brokers in China.
In its previous report, the U.N. panel found that North Korea amassed $571 million from hacking crypto exchanges and companies between January 2017 and October 2018.
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