United Nations (UN) experts are probing 58 suspected North Korean cyberattacks that took place from 2017 to 2023, with an estimated value of around $3 billion.
UN experts are delving into the alleged North Korean cyberattacks, which are estimated to have generated billions of dollars for the Kim Jong Un-led nation.
The investigation focuses on 58 suspected cyber incidents including high-profile crypto hacks occurring between 2017 and 2023, reportedly aimed at funding weapon development.
According to the UN panel, the frequency of cyberattacks by North Korean hacking groups linked to the Reconnaissance General Bureau, the country’s primary foreign intelligence agency, appears to be ongoing.
The timing of this investigation coincides with escalating tensions in the region. Kim Jong-un continues to issue threats against South Korea and conducts heightened weapons demonstrations.
Consequently, the U.S., South Korea, and Japan have intensified their joint military exercises.
The UN panel also highlighted the persistence of activities at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, indicating potential preparations for the country’s seventh nuclear test, the first since 2017.
During the six-month period that ended in January, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) reportedly launched at least seven ballistic missiles, including one intercontinental ballistic missile and possibly an intermediate-range missile, in addition to five short-range ballistic missiles.
Furthermore, the DPRK achieved a significant milestone by successfully deploying a military observation satellite into orbit following two previous failed attempts. Notably, a diesel submarine has been retrofitted into a “tactical nuclear attack submarine,” bolstering the North’s military capabilities.
The panel’s investigation also extends to reports of numerous DPRK nationals working overseas, particularly in information technology, restaurants, and construction sectors, and earning income in violation of UN sanctions.
Additionally, the DPRK continues to access the international financial system and engage in illicit financial operations, constituting another breach of sanctions.
While UN sanctions are intended to target the regime and not ordinary North Koreans, the panel acknowledges unintended consequences on humanitarian situations and aid operations, however, attributing these effects solely to sanctions remains challenging amidst various contributing factors.
Crackdown on North Korea’s cyberwarfare
In December, the U.S. South Korea, and Japan agreed to step up actions to counter North Korea’s cyber threats.
This decision followed a gathering of the three nations’ national security advisers in Seoul, where they deliberated on fresh trilateral strategies to combat North Korea’s cybercriminal activities and the laundering of illicit funds through cryptocurrencies.
The collaborative endeavor emerges on the heels of assertions pointing to North Korea’s exploitation of cyber warfare to finance its nuclear and missile endeavors, as highlighted in a recent UN report detailing Pyongyang’s adoption of sophisticated tactics to escalate cryptocurrency theft.
Moreover, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) under the U.S. Department of the Treasury has recently imposed sanctions on the cryptocurrency mixer Sinbad. OFAC alleges that cybercriminal entities like Lazarus Group utilized this mixer to launder pilfered funds.
Sinbad now joins the ranks of OFAC-sanctioned cryptocurrency mixers, following similar punitive measures taken against Blender and Tornado Cash.
Notably, the hacking entities responsible for these assaults operate under the auspices of North Korea’s primary foreign intelligence entity.