According to a UN assessment, North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes rely on cryptocurrency funding.
According to a UN assessment seen by Reuters, North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes rely significantly on cash from cyberattacks and cryptocurrency exchanges.
“According to a member state, DPRK cyber criminals stole more than $50 million from at least three cryptocurrency exchanges in North America, Europe, and Asia between 2020 and mid-2021,” according to the study.
While North Korea’s illicit crypto business is thriving, the COVID-19 virus has stifled other, more usual forms of unlawful cash, including as illicit luxury goods crossing the border.
“Direct delivery of non-DPRK tankers to DPRK has ended, most likely as a result of COVID-19 actions,” according to the report.
A crypto lifeline for North Korea
This isn’t the first time North Korea has turned to cryptocurrency for revenue. The country is isolated and heavily sanctioned.
North Korea was determined to have launched at least seven cyber attacks against cryptocurrency exchanges last month, according to Chainalysis data, which was also included in the UN’s most recent report.
The Hermit Kingdom received about $400 million in cryptocurrency as a result of this action.
This was a huge increase from the previous year, when only four North Korean-linked cyber attacks against crypto platforms were reported.
North Korea “began a thorough laundering procedure to cover up and cash out” after it had access to the targeted funds, according to Chainalysis.
Lazarus Squad, a group of cybercriminals supported by the DPRK’s top intelligence agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, is one of North Korea’s most prominent players in the hunt for cryptocurrencies.
Following North Korea’s infamous WannaCry and Sony Pictures hacks, the Lazarus Group sprang to prominence, but according to Chainalysis, the group has stolen and laundered “huge sums of virtual currency every year, generally in excess of $200 million” since 2018.
North Korea was also migrating to Monero, a cryptocurrency meant to be completely anonymous, according to a research published in 2020.
“We believe that Monero’s secrecy and reduced processing power requirements make Monero more appealing to North Korean consumers than Bitcoin,” according to the Recorded Future analysis.
North Korea was believed to have raised nearly $2 billion for nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in 2019, according to the United Nations.