The United Nations has claimed that the government of North Korea has managed to drum up some $2 billion for its missile and nuclear weapon programs, using only a series of advanced cyberattacks that regularly targeted crypto asset exchanges.
According to a Reuters report on August 5, 2019, its reporters have seen a confidential briefing from the UN outlining this source of revenue for North Korea. The report mentions that North Korea’s cyberhacking capabilities have become increasingly sophisticated and that they are targeting cryptocurrency exchanges and mining operations, in addition to traditional financial institutions. It also appears to confirm earlier suspicions that North Korea has been able to use the international trade of crypto assets to launder illegitimate funds.
There is an established precedent for national governments and non-state actors hostile to the United States using cryptocurrency to circumvent various international restrictions. North Korea has been conducting large-scale hacking operations for quite some time. In late October 2018, for example, crypto news outlet HardFork reported that the government-run Lazarus Group had stolen more than $571 million from cryptocurrency exchanges in a period of little over a year. Nevertheless, this latest report is an eye-opener into the true scale of the government’s hacking efforts.
Not only have these hacks managed to net at least $2 billion, but the report also clarifies that this is the amount of stolen money that North Korea has specifically earmarked for its various weapons programs.