United Nations probing 35 North Korean cyberattacks in 17 countries

Clay Curtis
August 13, 2019

The Associated Press, in the previous week, published a report from the United Nations experts, mentioning North Korean unlawfully earned more than $2 billion from its cyber operations against financial organizations and crypto exchanges.

India came second in the list, incurring three attacks while Bangladesh and Chile followed suit with both nations having two cases each.

The experts said they are investigating the reported attacks as attempted violations of United Nations sanctions, which the panel monitors.

To achieve this, bank employee computers and infrastructure were accessed to send fraudulent messages and destroy evidence.

Attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges and individual holders, where tokens were stolen. "Mining of cryptocurrency as a source of funds for a professional branch of the military", per the report.

North Korea may have confirmed the worst fears of cryptocurrency regulators by hacking crypto exchanges and financial institutions in at least 17 countries to fund its nuclear program.

It also said that cryptojacking attacks were traced back to North Korea.

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Under U.N. sanctions, North Korea is limited to importing 500,000 barrels of such products annually including gasoline and diesel.

The panel also recommended sanctions against the captain, owner, and parent company of the North Korean-flagged Wise Honest, which was detained by Indonesia in April 2018 with an illegal shipment of coal.

These funds were reportedly used to fund its various weapons of mass destruction.

The experts said they have requested information from Rwanda on a report that North Koreans are conducting special forces training at a military camp in Gabiro. This method involves the use of malware secretly installed on a computer, using the computer to mine digital assets without the knowledge of the owner.

It added that the hackers used "low risk, high yield" methods, often only needing a laptop computer to carry out their attacks.

An instance was cited in the report where over 5,000 separate transactions were sent to different destinations before eventual conversion, making it hard to track these funds.

As per users and exchange attacks, one of the neighboring country's big cryptocurrency exchanges, Bithumb has reportedly fallen victim on at least 4 different occasions between 2017 to 2019, losing about $58 million in the process. The third hack was executed in June past year, resulted in the exchange to lose $31 million, and the last hack took place on March 2019, the exchange lost $20 million in the attack. Previously, a report had analyzed a piece of malware created to mine the cryptocurrency Monero "and send any mined currency to servers located at Kim Il-sung University in Pyongyang".

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