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UN details how North Korea carried out crypto and SWIFT hacks to amass $2B to fund its nuclear programs

Yogita Khatri

Experts at the United Nations (UN) have now apparently issued a detailed report on how North Korea collected an estimated $2 billion by hacking cryptocurrency exchanges and financial institutions to fund its nuclear programs.

The detailed report indicates that South Korea was hit hardest from North Korean cyberattacks with ten victims, followed by India with three, and Bangladesh and Chile with two each, as reported by the South China Morning Post on Tuesday. The intergovernmental organization is investigating 35 North Korea cyberattacks in 17 countries.

North Korean hackers used three methods to carry out those attacks - 1. Via SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) system, “with bank employee computers and infrastructure accessed to send fraudulent messages and destroy evidence”; 2. Theft of cryptocurrency “through attacks on both exchanges and users”; and 3. “Mining of cryptocurrency as a source of funds for a professional branch of the military,” per the report.

South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb was reportedly attacked at least four times, leading to a cumulative loss of over $50 million. The UN experts also investigated instances of “cryptojacking” in which malware is used to infect a computer to illegally mine cryptocurrencies.

The detailed report from the UN follows a confidential summary report last week, which said North Korea used “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyberattacks to steal the funds for its weapons of mass destruction programs.