Seoul: North Korea has stolen more than $300 million worth of cryptocurrencies through cyberattacks in recent months to support its banned nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, a confidential UN report said.
Compiled by a panel of experts monitoring sanctions on Pyongyang, the report said the country’s “total theft of virtual assets from 2019 to November 2020 is valued at approximately $316.4 million”, citing a UN member state.
The vast majority of the proceeds came from two thefts late last year.
The North is known to operate an army of thousands of well-trained hackers who have attacked firms, institutions and researchers in South Korea and elsewhere.
The North is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, which have made rapid progress under leader Kim Jong-un.
The UN panel said it was investigating a September 2020 hack against a cryptocurrency exchange that resulted in $281 million worth of cryptocurrencies being stolen.
A second cyberattack siphoned off $23 million a month later.
“Preliminary analysis, based on the attack vectors and subsequent efforts to launder the illicit proceeds strongly suggests links to the DPRK,” the report said, using the initials for the North’s official name.
The North is also blamed for a huge, $81 million cyber-heist from the Bangladesh Central Bank, as well as the theft of $60 million from Taiwan’s Far Eastern International Bank.
Pyongyang has denied the accusations, saying it has “nothing to do with cyber-attacks”.