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North Korea’s military has stolen more than half a billion dollars in cryptocurrency

March 8, 2019

A panel of experts has told the United Nations Security Council that North Korea stole more than half a billion dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency from online trading platforms during 2017 and 2018, and used blockchain technology to cover its tracks. The thefts were part of a wider hacking campaign against financial institutions in other countries.

Operation evade sanctions: According to the panel, the attacks were launched by a specialized force inside the North Korean military that has become an important part of the government’s policy as it faces strict economic sanctions over its nuclear program. State-sponsored hackers waged cyberattacks on a number of overseas financial institutions, including cryptocurrency exchanges, amassing $670 million in total.

Magic internet money laundering: We should not be surprised that state-sponsored hackers have moved into crypto. According to Nikkei, which obtained a copy of the report, the UN panel said cryptocurrencies have given North Korea a new way to get around sanctions, since “they are hard to trace, can be laundered many times and are independent from government regulation.”

Time to circle the wagons? The panel urged UN member states to “enhance their ability to facilitate robust information exchange” on North Korean cyberattacks with other governments as well as domestic financial institutions.  

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