North Korean hackers have stolen $3B in crypto to bankroll weapons program — UN Security Council

The UN Security Council claims that North Korea's crypto hacks were used to fund weapons of mass destruction.

a crypto wallet representing the target of North Korean hackers and threat actors

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A United Nations Security Council (UNSC) panel has released a report on 58 suspected cyberattacks executed by North Korean hackers on cryptocurrency-related firms from 2017 to 2023, valued at approximately $3 billion, according to a report released by the committee. 

The report, based on open-source materials, information from UN member countries, and other sources, highlights North Korea’s engagement in “malicious” cyber activities to generate about half of its foreign currency revenue and bankroll its weapons programs.

The panel’s findings align with a December report by cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, which calculated that the North Korea-linked hacker organization Lazarus Group had stolen $3 billion in cryptocurrency in the last six years.

According to the research, which covered the period from July 2023 to January this year, North Korean hackers were implicated in at least 17 crypto heists in 2023. From this range, over the amount of crypto stolen is valued at over $750 million. The UN report was first highlighted in a report by Yonhap, a primary news agency based in South Korea.

“The malicious cyberactivities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) generate approximately 50 percent of its foreign currency income and are used to fund its weapons programs,” the UN security panel stated.

The panel emphasized that during its reporting period, North Korean cyberthreat actors continued targeting the virtual asset industry in an effort to evade UN sanctions and generate revenue. The report also noted that one company branded North Korea as the “world’s most prolific cyber-thief.”

In addition to the cyberattacks, the panel highlighted North Korea’s continued development of nuclear weapons and production of nuclear fissile materials, despite its last known nuclear test taking place in 2017. The report also called attention to the remarks made by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi, indicating activities underway that could lead to the production of more fissile materials used for nuclear bombs. The committee’s report also confirms that the DPRK has continued to breach UNSC resolutions through its efforts to advance its weapons programs.

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