UN Report: North Korea’s Crypto Theft Was at Its Peak in 2022
- The UN report claims North Korean hackers were responsible for multiple attacks on crypto platforms in 2022.
- North Korea currently faces several sanctions for its nuclear weapon policies.
According to a new United Nations (UN) report, North Korea stole more digital assets in 2022 than it did in previous years. The confidential report, which was seen by Reuters, claims that hackers linked to North Korea masterminded attacks in the range of $630 million to over $1 billion. A recent report released last week by blockchain analytics company Chainalysis also linked North Korean hackers to at least $1.7 billion worth of crypto theft in 2022.
North Korea was accused of employing cyberattacks to support the funding of its nuclear and missile programs. The UN report also mentioned that cyber attacks were more advanced than in previous years, making it harder than ever to track down stolen money.
An independent sanctions monitor told a U.N. Security Council committee that “North Korea used increasingly sophisticated cyber techniques both to gain access to digital networks involved in cyber finance, and to steal information of potential value, including about its weapons programs.”
North Korea previously dismissed claims of hacking or other cyberattacks. However, South Korea believes that hackers with North Korean ties plundered virtual assets worth $630 million in 2022.
The UN report added that “the variation in USD value of cryptocurrency in recent months is likely to have affected these estimates, but both show that 2022 was a record-breaking year for DPRK (North Korea) virtual asset theft.”
The report, which is due to be released later this month or early next month, added that “the techniques used by cyber threat actors have become more sophisticated, thus making tracking stolen funds more difficult.”
North Korea and Global Sanctions
According to the monitors, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which is North Korea’s main intelligence agency, controls the majority of the cyberattacks. Cybersecurity experts were reportedly keeping an eye on these North Korea-linked groups, which included names such as Lazarus Group, Andariel, and Kimsuky.
In April, the United States alleged that North Korean hackers were responsible for the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of crypto linked to the well-known online game Axie Infinity. Authorities also believe that North Korea-backed hackers were responsible for the popular attack on Ronin, a blockchain network that enables players to transfer cryptocurrency in and out of games, which wiped out around $615 million.
The sanctions monitors claimed that the organizations used a variety of tactics, including phishing, to spread malware. One such effort targeted workers in organizations in several countries. Explaining the hacker’s approach, the report noted that “initial contacts with individuals were made via LinkedIn, and once a level of trust with the targets was established, malicious payloads were delivered through continued communications over WhatsApp.”
The monitors added that Pyongyang continued to develop nuclear fissile material at its sites and fired at least 73 ballistic missiles. Interestingly, global leaders such as the United States believe North Korea is preparing for a seventh nuclear test.
The Security Council has previously barred North Korea from performing nuclear testing and ballistic missile launches. The Asian country has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 and has remained a security concern in the political space.