UN: Cyberattacks Fund North Korean Missiles

Millions in cryptocurrency from exchanges go toward restricted systems
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2022 5:10 PM CST
North Korea's Cyberthefts Fund Missile Program: UN Report
People watch a TV last week showing a file image of a North Korean missile launch at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

A major source of funding for North Korea's government, especially its missile program, is theft, a UN report says. The investigation found that cyberattacks have netted millions in stolen cryptocurrency, the BBC reports, from at least three cryptocurrency exchanges in North America, Europe, and Asia. The findings have been forwarded to the UN sanctions committee. Independent monitors compile an assessment of North Korean issues each year, based on on-site data collection, public information, and intelligence from UN nations.

The investigators said North Korea stole more than $50 million in digital assets in 2020 and part of 2021; the report included an estimate from the security firm Chainalysis that the cyberattacks could have brought in digital assets worth $400 million last year. The UN Security Council has prohibited North Korea from carrying out nuclear tests and missile launches, but the report says the weapons infrastructure continues to be developed despite sanctions. The US and eight other Security Council members issued a statement Friday condemning North Korea's recent launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile; China and Russia would not sign, per CBS News.

The report said the humanitarian situation in North Korea has deteriorated and probably worsened because the country closed its borders during the pandemic; 30 recommendations were included to address the problem. The difficulty in getting information from North Korea makes it hard to tell how much of the suffering is caused by international sanctions, the report said. The US has said it wants the UN to approve more sanctions in response to the increase in missile tests, per CBS. (Read more North Korea stories.)

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