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UN Unveils $3B Theft: Cryptocurrency Funding North Korea's Nuclear Program

UN Unveils $3B Theft: Cryptocurrency Funding North Korea's Nuclear Program

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The United Nations (UN) sanctions monitors have claimed that North Korea conducted mass cyberattacks to siphon away $3 billion of crypto to fund its nuclear weapons program and other sanctioned activities. 

Raising Funds Through Cyberattacks

According to a recent report by the UN, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has allegedly been involved in a series of cyberattacks targeting cryptocurrency firms, bringing in a staggering $3 billion over six years. The report claims that these illicit activities have been responsible for funding the nation’s weapons of mass destruction development.

Despite sanctions, North Korea has maintained access to the international financial system and engaged in illicit financial activities, including the use of cryptocurrencies. This defiance of UN Security Council sanctions complicates efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and illegal activities.

Lazarus Group: NK’s Leading Cyberattack Arm

The UN report identifies hacking groups affiliated with the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s primary foreign intelligence agency, as responsible for these cyber assaults. Particularly notable is the Lazarus Group, spearheading North Korea’s cyber offensive. This group has targeted defense companies and supply chains, displaying a high level of sophistication in their attack strategies.

Recent attacks by the Lazarus Group include a $55 million heist from the CoinEx exchange and a staggering $117 million theft from Poloniex, highlighting how the group targets crypto for financial gain.

Violation of International Sanctions

North Korea has persistently defied international sanctions, as indicated by the UN report. The country has continued to expand its nuclear arsenal, produce nuclear fissile materials, and engage in activities such as ballistic missile launches and deployment of tactical nuclear assets. This behavior raises concerns about regional stability and security.

The UN sanctions monitors also highlighted reports of North Korean nationals working overseas in sectors such as information technology, restaurants, and construction in violation of sanctions. These individuals contribute to the North Korean government's revenue through their earnings.

Implications for International Security

The stolen cryptocurrency amounts to about 30% of North Korea’s foreign earnings and can significantly strengthen the regime’s military capabilities. 

A National Intelligence Service (NIS) officer from South Korea warned that the funds stolen in 2022 alone (almost $700 million) could finance the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile launches, underscoring the gravity of the situation. The UN report sheds light on North Korea’s persistent efforts to circumvent international sanctions through cybercrime, posing a significant threat to global security and stability.  

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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