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North Korean Missile Programs Rely on Crypto Financing, According to UN Report

A UN report seen by Reuters discovered that North Korea depends on financing from crypto exchanges for nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

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Photo by twenty20photos

A United Nations report seen by Reuters has discovered that North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs are heavily dependent on financing from crypto exchanges and cyberattacks and the revenue generated from them.

“According to a member state, DPRK cyber actors stole more than $50 million between 2020 and mid-2021 from at least three cryptocurrency exchanges in North America, Europe and Asia,” the report detailed.

Though illegal activity in crypto is still ongoing within the bounds of North Korea, more common side of illicit activities has staggered and been interrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such activities would usually include the movement of luxury goods across the border.

The report further stated that “Direct delivery by non-DPRK tankers to DPRK has ceased, probably in response to COVID-19 measures.”

This wouldn’t be the 1st time that North Korea, a heavily sanctioned and isolated state, has looked to crypto for income.

Just last month Chainalysis data–also cited in the UN’s recent report–has found that North Korea has launched at least 7 cyberattacks against crypto exchanges.

Almost $400 million worth of cryptocurrencies were generated for the Hermit Kingdom from this activity. A significant increase from last year’s activity which had only 4 cyberattacks against crypto firms that could be linked back to North Korea.

What’s even more interesting to note is, Chainalysis quickly discovered that North Korea swiftly “began a careful laundering process to cover up and cash out,” once it got its hands on the targeted funds.

One of North Korea’s chief actors in the hunt for cryptocurrencies is Lazarus Group, a team consisting of cybercriminals backed by DPRK’s chief intelligence agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau.

Lazarus Group made sure to hit mainstream consciousness following North Korea’s infamous WannaCry and Sony Pictures cyberattacks, though since 2018 they’ve laundered and stolen “massive sums of virtual currencies every year, typically in excess of $200 million,” per Chainalysis.

A 2020 report discovered that North Korea was also moving to Monero, which is known to be designed with complete anonymity in mind.

“We believe that Monero’s anonymity and lower processing power requirements likely make Monero more attractive than Bitcoin to North Korean users,” the Recorded Future report stated.

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