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UN Report: North Korea Funding Weapons Program with Stolen Crypto

According to a confidential UN report, North Korea is funding its weapons of mass destruction program with cryptocurrency and Fiat currency stolen from banks and exchanges.

Widespread sophisticated attacks

The report that was seen by Reuters was apparently researched by “independent experts” and presented at UN Security council last week. The report stated that North Korea had used “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyber-attacks to steal from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges. Pyongyang also “continued to enhance its nuclear and missile programs although it did not conduct a nuclear test or ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) launch,” read the report to the U.N Security council North Korea sanctions committee by independent experts monitoring compliance over the past six months.

When reached for comment on the report that was submitted last week, the North Korea mission to the United Nations did not respond. The report further said that;

“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) programs, with total proceeds to date estimated at up to two billion US dollars,”

The Reconnaissance General Bureau is a top North Korean military intelligence agency. The “independent experts” also said according to the report that they are currently investigating  “at least 35 reported instances of DPRK actors attacking financial institutions, cryptocurrency exchanges and mining activity designed to earn foreign currency” in 17 countries.

The experts also said that North Korean hacks against cryptocurrency exchanges allowed it “to generate income in ways that are harder to trace and subject to less government oversight and regulation than the traditional banking sector.”

The Security Council has unanimously imposed sanctions and maintained them since 2006 in a bid to kill funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The council has also banned North Korean exports such as coal, iron, lead, seafood, textiles, and capped imports of crude oil, and refined petroleum products.

U.S. Response to report

When asked about the damning U.N report, a U.S State Department spokeswoman said; “We call upon all 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.”  

U.S president Donald Trump has held 3 meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, most recently in June when he became the first sitting U.S president to set foot in North Korea at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. The since stalled talks are yet to resume, and just a few hours ago North Korea launched two short-range missiles off its East coast according to the South Korean military.

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