“North Korea’s Cyberattacks Yield Massive $3B in Stolen Crypto, Accounting for 50% of Foreign Currency Earnings”


According to a recent report released by the United Nations (UN) Security Council, North Korea earns half of its foreign exchange earnings through cyberattacks. The council is currently investigating the country’s involvement in cyberattacks against cryptocurrency companies, which have reportedly caused losses of approximately $3 billion (450 billion yen).

These attacks are primarily carried out by compromising digital wallet private keys and seed phrases, crucial for wallet security. As a result, the victims’ assets are transferred to North Korean-controlled wallets, often exchanged for USDT or Tron, and then converted to fiat currency through large-volume OTC brokers.

In 2023, hackers associated with North Korea stole at least $600 million in cryptocurrency. If confirmed to be North Korean, further attacks in the final days of the year could increase this total to around $700 million. Despite a 30% decrease from the previous year’s haul of $850 million, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) still accounted for nearly a third of all funds stolen in crypto attacks.

Furthermore, attacks attributed to the DPRK were found to be ten times more damaging than those not linked to the country. Since 2017, Pyongyang-linked threat actors have caused nearly $3 billion in cryptocurrency losses.

Aside from financial gain, these hackers are also allegedly using the stolen cryptocurrency to fund their nuclear weapons programs. North Korea has been facing United Nations sanctions since its initial nuclear test in 2006, targeting its financial resources for nuclear development.

The UN Panel of Experts has announced that it will review sanctions enforcement against North Korea from July 2023 to January 2024, with a focus on evasion tactics. The findings will help the Security Council determine if new sanctions should be imposed on violators.

The report also reveals that cyberattacks fund about 40% of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction development costs. There has been a noticeable increase in attacks targeting defense-oriented firms, with entities linked to North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Directorate pooling resources and cyber tools.

Moreover, the panel’s investigations have also raised concerns about Hamas using weapons of North Korean origin, a claim supported by Israel. North Korea, however, denies these allegations, dismissing them as baseless.

Despite efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear program through sanctions, the country continues to import banned petroleum products and export luxury goods. In 2023, trade volumes exceeded those of the previous year, indicating persistent sanctions evasion.

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