UN Panel: North Korea Carries Out Crypto Hacks to Bypass Economic Sanctions

A United Nations (U.N.) Security Council expert panel report stated that North Korea has been implementing major cryptocurrency hacks to circumvent economic sanctions.

Nikkei Asian Review, which has gotten the report, published March 8 that this is the first time the panel has specified the unlawful cryptocurrency activities of North Korea.

According to Nikkei, the country has had strict economic sanctions enforced on its missile and nuclear programs, which affected its coal exports and hence its foreign exchange earnings.

Cryptocurrencies give the country “more ways to evade sanctions, given that they are harder to trace, can be laundered many times and are independent from government regulation,” according to the panel. It also supposes that North Korea is utilizing blockchain technology to prevent being tracked.

The panel estimates losses amounting to $571 million as North Korea implemented successful hacks on Asian crypto exchanges at least five times between January 2017 and September 2018.

Last October, cybersecurity vendor Group-IB reported the same figure as losses inflicted by Lazarus, North Korea’s infamous hacking group. The firm said that the group accomplished to steal the digital currencies through 14 hacks on cryptocurrency exchanges.

In February last year, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) also mentioned North Korea hackers as the cause of loss of tens of million of dollars in digital currencies in 2017.

Finally, the panel suggested that UN member countries “enhance their ability to facilitate robust information exchange on the cyberattacks by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with other governments and with their own financial institutions,” to prevent and identify such attacks.

Nikkei said that the report will be officially submitted to the Security Council soon.