North Korea reportedly stole $2bn from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges

Korea has skirted UN sanctions by using cyberattacks to generate funding for military weapons, a yet-to-be-released report claims.

A leaked draft report from the United Nations has alleged that North Korea an estimated $ after launching a wave of cyberattacks against banks and exchanges.

The report was viewed in advance of its publication by journalists from Associated Press, Reuters and more earlier this week.

The report, which was submitted to the Security Council committee last week, was authored by a panel of cyber experts monitoring UN sanctions. It says that North Korea is using cyberspace “to launch increasingly sophisticated attacks to steal funds from financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges to generate income”.

It is, according to the research, using these large-scale assaults to shore up funding for its military weapons programmes “in ways that are harder to trace and subject to less government oversight and regulation than the traditional banking sector.”

The attacks were levelled, experts noted, by the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which is North Korea’s military intelligence programme.

The report pointed to more than 35 instances of actors from North Korea targeting financial institutions, cryptocurrency and mining activities in order to earn foreign currencies in 17 countries.

Pyongyang continues to have access to the global financial system “through bank representatives and networks operating worldwide”. It attributed to “deficiencies” by UN member in implementing financial sanctions, as well as subterfuge on North Korea’s part.

Reports also recently emerged that North Korea had been firing projectiles off its west coast, the fourth military weapons test in less than two weeks, though the previous three were launched from the country’s eastern shores.

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Pyongyang has expressed anger at both Seoul and Washington for holding joint military exercises. It has also repeatedly bucked horns with Washington over a stalemate the two nations have been locked in over dismantling North Korea’s nuclear programme.

North Korea has been under various sanctions levelled by both the UN and the US for years. Since Pyongyang pulled out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty in 2003, the UN has unanimously passed more than a dozen resolutions condemning it for its nuclear pursuits. These sanctions have included bans on mineral exports such as copper, nickel, coal and iron as well as restrictions on import of oil. It has also limited the export of metal, agriculture and labour.

The US meanwhile has also placed unilateral sanctions on North Korea to impede its development of nuclear technology, though some have also been shepherded through in response of various cyberattacks it is alleged to have perpetrated, such as the 2014 Sony breach and the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack.

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