UN: North Korea Rakes in Half of Foreign Currency Via Crypto Assaults

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A recent report by the United Nations Security Council has shed light on North Korea’s extensive reliance on cyberattacks, including those featuring crypto scams, as a significant source of foreign currency gains.

According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the UN report, released on Thursday, revealed that approximately 50% of North Korea’s foreign currency income is derived from cyber-related activities.

North Korea’s Cyber Financial Warfare

The analysis of 58 suspected cyberattacks targeting cryptocurrency-related companies spanning from 2017 to 2023 buttressed the influence of North Korea’s hacking activities. These attacks led to approximately $3 billion in losses, with the funds diverted allegedly contributing to financing about 40% of North Korea’s expenses in developing weapons of mass destruction.

Although the UN report itself does not carry direct authority, it is an indication of the international community’s growing concerns regarding North Korea’s cyber capabilities. Japan’s Nikkei reported that the UN Security Council may consider imposing additional sanctions on North Korea in response to these new findings.

Similarly, TRM Labs, a blockchain intelligence company, in a report at the start of this year revealed that North Korean hackers stole as much as $700 million in Bitcoin, with their investigation confirming as much as $600 million of the total amount.

North Korean Hacker Groups and Crypto Scams

This latest assessment by the UN corroborates previous assertions by the United States government. Last year, senior officials from the Biden administration claimed that approximately half of North Korea’s foreign currency income stemmed from cyberattacks.

Specifically, the fingers have been pointed at some hacker groups such as Lazarus and Kimsuky as being supported by North Korea, to be the culprits behind numerous high-profile cyber-attacks aimed at the cryptocurrency sector.

According to data compiled on Dune Analytics sourced from 21.co, the North Korean hacking collective, Lazarus Group, possessed a combined sum of $47 million in cryptocurrencies, predominantly in Bitcoin (BTC) alongside holdings in Ether (ETH), Binance Coin (BNB), and stablecoins like Binance USD (BUSD). Also, the breaches at Harmony, Stake.com, and Coincheck were linked to these groups, who frequently use cryptocurrency mixers to hide the source of the stolen funds.

Stakeholders Suggest Collaboration and Countermeasures

The increasing danger of cyber-enabled financial crimes and crypto scams brought to the fore by the UN report lends credence to the clamor by stakeholders that improved global collaboration is required to address illicit activities within the realm of digital assets.

These stakeholders say that the possible imposition of additional sanctions by the UN Security Council could help in holding North Korea accountable for its illicit cyber activities that have resulted in financial losses for some.

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