November 07, 2022 09:53
North Korea stole more than W1.7 trillion worth of cryptocurrencies this year alone by hacking into accounts, intelligence agencies believe (US$1=W1,419).
"South Korean and U.S. intelligence officials verified that North Korea stole at least W1.7 trillion from Bitcoin and Ethereum accounts," an intelligence source here said Sunday. "This is the reason why North Korea has been able to launch so many provocations despite its moribund economy."
North Korea spent hundreds of billions of won over the past week alone firing around 30 missiles and 160 artillery shells.
Since international sanctions were imposed in 2016, North Korea has stolen cryptocurrencies from exchanges around the world. A senior government official here said, "As the cryptocurrency ecosystem evolved quickly, North Korean hacker groups... run by the General Reconnaissance Bureau focused on hacking into exchanges, and the money was used to fund the development of nuclear missiles."
U.S. blockchain firm Chainalysis said in a report in August that around 60 percent of cryptocurrency theft this year or US$1 billion was committed by North Korean hackers.
North Korea has switched its criminal activities to hacking cryptocurrency accounts as international sanctions and the total border lockdown in the coronavirus pandemic made it difficult for the reclusive state to earn hard currency through traditional methods like counterfeiting or drug dealing.
Many cryptocurrency exchanges have relatively weak security despite the exponential growth of their ecosystem in recent years.
South Korea and the U.S. are expected to announce more sanctions as soon as North Korea limbers up to another nuclear test. In August, the two allies formed a working group to respond to North Korean cyber threats and discussed ways to block the North from raising money to fund its nuclear weapons and missile programs.
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