North Korea stole a record amount of cryptocurrency assets in 2022, according to a draft United Nations report, another sign of how the isolated country is circumventing international sanctions to raise funds.
The report, compiled by a U.N. Security Council panel, details that North Korean actors used increasingly sophisticated techniques to gain access to digital networks involved in cyber finance and steal information of potential value, including for weapons programs. This led to a higher value of cryptocurrency assets being stolen by North Korea in 2022 than in any previous year, according to the report.
"(North Korea) used increasingly sophisticated cyber techniques both to gain access to digital networks involved in cyber finance, and to steal information of potential value, including to its weapons programmes," independent sanctions monitors reported to a U.N. Security Council committee.
The monitors have previously accused North Korea of using cyber-attacks to help fund its nuclear and missile programs.
"A higher value of cryptocurrency assets was stolen by DPRK actors in 2022 than in any previous year," the monitors wrote in their report - submitted to the 15-member council's North Korea sanctions committee on Friday - citing information from U.N. member states and cybersecurity firms.
The panel also investigated the alleged export of North Korean military communications equipment and began an investigation into reports of ammunition exports.
In the report, the panel accuses North Korea of continuing the production of nuclear fissile materials. It also says North Korea carried out tests of at least 73 ballistic missiles and missiles combining ballistic and guidance technologies, including eight intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The hermit nation "openly describes many of the missile launches as 'ballistic,' in explicit violation of the United Nations sanctions regime," the report said.
Ostracised by most countries across the globe, North Korea is a pariah state where the authoritarian regime of Kim Jong Un uses almost all the revenue for its missile programmes instead of public welfare.
However, with no major avenue available to bring in the money, stealing cryptocurrency and virtual assets has emerged as a promising option over the years.
Earlier this year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informed that North Korean actors were behind the $100 million heist at crypto firm Harmony's Horizon bridge that took place in June 2022.
In December 2022, South Korean intelligence agencies said North Korean hackers had stolen an estimated $1.2 billion in bitcoin and other virtual assets over the previous five years, with more than half of it happening in the said calendar year.
Image source: Reuters