North Korea’s cyber warfare activities, including cryptocurrency exchanges hacks and attacks against western nations, have netted the state around $2 billion according to a panel monitoring United Nations (U.N.) sanctions. In a report to the U.N. Security Council seen by the Associated Press Monday, the panel said that Pyongyang was using cyberspace “to launch increasingly sophisticated attacks to steal funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges to generate income”.
North Korea’s Hacks and Attacks
Over $1 billion was stolen in crypto hacks in 2018, while the first half of this year saw at least one exchange hack per month apart from April, with March’s DradongEx hack thought to be the work of North Korea. The country is known for its cyber-attacks against western nations, often requesting ransoms to be paid in BTC, all of which helps to “generate income in ways that are harder to trace and subject to less government oversight and regulation than the traditional banking sector” according to the panel.
An example of this is the WannaCry malware that targeted hospitals and banks worldwide in 2017, which US authorities managed to track back to a single North Korean hacker and cost the UK’s National Health System alone over $100 million.
Banks are Being Used Too
North Korea is using the funds to further bolster its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, giving rise to the accusations by crypto haters that the sole use of the currency is for such activities. It should be noted however that cryptocurrency is just one of the ways in which North Korea is making money and dodging sanctions – they also have “more than 30 overseas representatives controlling bank accounts and facilitating transactions, including for illicit transfers of coal and petroleum”, with the banks making use of “complicit foreign nationals to obfuscate their activities.”