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North Korea hacking crypto exchanges to fund its weapons program

North Korea has a flourishing nuclear and ballistic missile program which however is funded by illicit crypto trade. As the Independent sanctions monitors have mentioned in their report to the United Nations, a prime source of the money North Korea spends on its missile program comes from hacking international crypto exchanges. The report has been submitted to the UN Security Council North Korea sanctions committee.

A member state stated hacking attempts originating from North Korea have managed to steal more than US $50 million during the period from 2020 and mid-2021. At least three cryptocurrency exchanges in Asia, Europe, and North America were the target of this attack. There have also been similar attacks on crypto exchanges in South Korea as well between 2017 and 2018 though it is not known how much they managed to decamp with in the attack.

A similar report from Chainalysis which the Independent sanctions monitors too made reference to in its findings had also pinned hackers from North Korea to be the prime suspects in at least seven instances of cyber attacks on crypto assets. A whopping US $400 million was lost in the attack which took place late last year.

That said, things have ceased to be as easy as North Korean had experienced before. A separate report from a media house located in South Korea has said the hackers from its northern neighbors are forced to make do with significantly lower amounts from their hacking attempts than what they managed during their earlier endeavors. The report cited the US $50 million figure was considerably lower than the US $2 billion that North Korea had managed to steal as was mentioned in a 2019 UN Panel of Experts report.

This has been due to most nations adopting a more stringent security apparatus around their crypto assets which has made it increasingly harder for hackers to make it through. North Korea continues to pursue an ambitious nuclear and conventional weapons program even though most parts of the country are reeling under severe famine and poverty.

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