Pyongyang steals cryptocurrencies to finance nuclear program

WARSAW, (BM) – North Korea ignores sanctions imposed by the United Nations and acquires modern technology to produce nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Defence24. According to a report by UN experts, it uses cyber attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges to finance these operations.

The UN panel of experts that oversees the sanctions imposed on North Korea estimated in a report sent to the Security Council that the value of theft of virtual assets by Korea from the end of 2019 to November 2020 amounts to approximately USD 316 million – an unidentified country reported this data. An expert investigation found that cybercriminals linked to North Korea continued operations against financial institutions and virtual currency exchange offices last year. These attacks’ profits were to be used to purchase weapons of mass destruction and develop ballistic missile programs.

The report also drew attention to the fact that the North Korean government was also engaged in producing fissile materials, which are an essential ingredient in the production of nuclear weapons. It also maintained existing nuclear facilities. “During military parades, the government presented new short-range and medium-range ballistic missile systems, fired from intercontinental-range submarines. It also announced preparations for testing and producing new ballistic missile warheads and the development of tactical nuclear weapons. It also modernized the ballistic missile infrastructure” – experts indicated. The panel recommended that the Security Council impose a sanction on four North Korean men: Choe Song Chola, Im Song Suna, Pak Hwa Songa, and Hwang Kil Sua.

Experts said North Korea has not stopped laundering stolen cryptocurrencies, primarily via Chinese virtual assets. According to the panel, the hack into the cryptocurrency exchange in September last year is being investigated. Cryptocurrencies worth approximately USD 281 million were stolen then. Investigators link this break-in to a later, in October, when North Korea stole 23 million dollars. “Preliminary analysis based on the directions of attacks and subsequent attempts to launder illicit proceeds clearly show links to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” it said.

The unidentified state allegedly revealed that North Korea generates illegal income by using independent IT platforms and gains access to the global financial system through false identification, virtual private network services, and creating front companies in Hong Kong.

As recalled by the Associated Press, the Security Council has imposed increasingly stringent sanctions on North Korea since the first trial detonation of a nuclear cargo in 2006. Blockades were set on most of the country’s exports, and imports were significantly reduced. This action was to put pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile programs. However, the latest UN report reveals that North Korea can circumvent these sanctions, including illegally import refined oil or gain access to international banking channels.

Last year, North Korea’s disastrous economy was worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced Korean leader Kim Jong Un to close the country’s borders. According to experts, this has severely limited the legal and illegal movement of goods and people’s movement.

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